Mental-health stigma is worth talking about…

MH word cloud1Making a slight change in the language we use can make a positive difference in how people think about mental-health.

A strong stigma (or negative label) is the number one reason why people don’t seek help for mental-health challenges. People suffer in silence, fearing the negative judgment of their friends, family and peers.

People First Language means referring to the person first and the challenge second. Putting the person first is far more inclusive and makes the person feel respected. People are more than a mental-health diagnosis, and want to be treated as individuals.

Rather than saying “he is bipolar,” try saying “he has a bipolar disorder.” Instead of “she is mentally ill,” say “she has a mental illness.”

Harmful terminology also plays a role in perpetuating stigma. Don’t use derogatory terms to describe a mental illness, such as loopy, psycho, wacko, etc. Simply saying “mental-health challenge” provides the respect and compassion that every human being deserves.

Some terms are said so frequently, most don’t recognize they have a negative impact. It is common to hear “my schedule is nuts today,” or “this mosquito bite itches like crazy.” Think of different adjectives that express what needs to be said. Try “my schedule is wild today,” or “this mosquito bite is intense.”

One in five people will experience a mental-health challenge, and using People First Language can help reduce the stigma that is keeping so many from getting help.

Tucson Medical Center is a patient-focused community hospital. All patients can expect to be treated with respect and compassion.

More information about People First Language is available through The Inclusion Project and Disability Rights California.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness provides excellent information and resources on mental health. There is a helpful and active Southern Arizona chapter called NAMISA.

If experiencing a mental-health crisis, call the Behavioral Health Crisis Line at (520) 622-6000. If the crisis is life-threatening, call 911 or visit your nearest emergency department.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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