As part of Mental Health Awareness Month in March, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has sent a release to bring awareness to the stigma surrounding mental health in local communities. All too often, they say, people are defined by their illness rather than who they are as individuals.
“Social stigma and discrimination can compound problems and make recovery more difficult for people living with mental illness,” the CMHA said in the release. “So, what can we do to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness? One great way is to start by changing the language we use when we talk about mental health issues.”
Rather than using negative or stigmatizing phrases such as “this drives me crazy”, “this is stupid”, or “this person has a mental illness”, the CMHA encourages people to use neutral phrasing such as “this is annoying”, “this is strange”, and “this person is living with a mental illness”.
Stigmatizing language can have detrimental effects on people, such as inspiring feelings of shame and hopelessness, making people reluctant to seek help or treatment, or making people believe they can never overcome their illnesses. Stigmatizing mental illness can even affect professional advancement and job prospects, or trigger bullying and harassment.
“The fight against stigma starts with ourselves,” the CMHA said. “Let’s remember to be careful about our choice of words by using accurate and sensitive words when talking about people living with mental illness.”