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Words Matter: How to Talk About Mental Health

Published May 8, 2024 

The words that we use can help reduce stigma around mental health. This increases the chance that you or a loved one will reach out for help.

Aim to end stigma

Words carry great meaning, even when we don’t intend them to be hurtful. Do not perpetual stereotypes or stigma about mental health. When talking about people, avoid words with negative connotations like:

  • nuts
  • lunatic
  • psycho
  • crazy

Words and phrases like these can perpetuate stereotypes. They can also discourage people from seeking mental health care.

QUICK TIP: Don’t say “committed suicide.” The implies suicide is a crime, which is not true. Instead, use the phrase “died by suicide.”

Use person-first language

When talking about someone with a diagnosed mental illness, use person-first language. This helps validate individuals. It also changes how they are perceived.

Preferred: She is a person with schizophrenia.

Not Preferred: She is a schizophrenic.

Don’t use diagnoses casually

Mental illnesses are clinical health conditions. Using them out of context in casual conversation or as a joke trivializes these conditions.

For example, avoid phrases like “I’m so OCD about my outfit,” or “The weather is so bi-polar today.” Choose different language that does not include using mental health diagnoses inappropriately.

How you talk about mental health matters. If you have questions about mental health and how to access resources in your community, we can help. Our trained, compassionate counselors are available 24/7.