Mental Health, Stigma, Language, Alternative Terms, Empathy, Education, Respectful Conversation, Guide, Mental Illness, Terminology
Mental Health

7 terms to avoid when talking about mental illnesses, and better ones to use

Someone may easily use phrases like “crazy,” “unhinged,” or “psychotic.” When used to describe someone suffering from a psychological condition, these expressions are openly negative. They can also be damaging when discussing another topic in those terms. For instance, describing something disjointed as “schizophrenic.”

Some of these expressions are clearly offensive, yet there are additional phrases that many people are unaware are insulting. As a result, we provide a list of terms to avoid while discussing mental diseases with personal family and close companions, as well as the loved ones of patients interact with. While some of these terms may or may not bother some individuals, it is always a good idea to be considerate.

The more we try to be thoughtful and kind, the near we will be to eliminating the harmful stigmas associated with mental disorders.

Here are seven words to avoid when discussing mental diseases, as well as more suitable alternatives.

  1. Do not use the phrase “mental illness” as a collective term

Instead, use: “Mental illnesses” or “A mental illness”

The word “mental illness” is a broad one. It does not accurately depict what an individual is going through. For example, describing somebody who has “cardiac issues” doesn’t actually tell you anything about what they’re going through. There are numerous sorts of heart disorders, and not every person who has them has suffered a heart attack.

Similarly, not everyone suffering from an anxiety disorder has been suicidal or depressed. There are numerous types of psychological problems. Furthermore, two patients with the exact same clinical condition can present in completely different ways. To be sensitive to people’s unique experiences, it’s critical to use language that understands that mental diseases are not identical in any way.

  1. Avoid using phrases like “affected by mental illness,” “suffers from psychological illness,” or “is a target of psychological illness”

Instead, use: “Living with a mental illness”

Having a psychological diagnosis isn’t always a bad thing. The term “suffering” indicates that someone is ill and awful. There also exists an unjust stigma that portrays mental diseases as a sign of weakness. People with psychological disorders can live full and healthy lives. And because there are numerous treatments available, there are numerous reasons to be positive.

Some persons who have psychological concerns discover that their observations have improved their lives. They might be more sympathetic, creatively inclined, or more ready to assist those around them. We’d never suggest someone is “suffering from asthma” or “suffering from diabetes.” They have diabetes or asthma, we would say. A psychological wellness diagnosis should not be treated any differently than a medical condition.

  1. Do not use the phrases “mentally ill person” or “an individual who is psychologically ill”

Instead, use: “Person with a mental illness” or “Person living with a mental health issue”

People suffering from mental diseases have considerably more aspects to them than their medical conditions. Accepting somebody as a person first is not only more considerate, but it respects the many other aspects of them that are not related to their illness. This is known as the “person first” language.

Consider how you want to hear someone else speak about a close family member or friend in a similar situation to learn the person’s first language. Changing your point of view can help you rethink your thinking and communication regarding people with mental disorders and other stigmatized themes.

  1. Avoid using the terms “schizophrenic, psychotic, disturbed, crazy, or insane”

Instead, use phrases like “person living with schizophrenia” or “person suffering psychosis, disorientation, or hallucination.”

We would never refer to somebody as “a cancer-ic” or “heart damaged.” People suffering from psychological disorders are wrongly labeled by their health issues. People, not sickness, are what matters. Another instance of “person first” language.

It’s still typical to hear people say things like, “What a crazy driver” or “That movie was insane.” Along with modifying the way you speak about individuals, encourage yourself to use these different terms while describing an item or an event.

  1. Avoid using the phrase “normal behavior”

Instead, use: “Usual behavior” or “typical behavior”

There is no straightforward explanation of what “normal” means. It can also make others feel wounded or offended if their involvement is perceived as out of the realm of “normal.” Using words like “usual” or “typical” makes things appear less significant. (Not to mention that each of us is unique in some manner.)

  1. Avoid using the terms “substance abuse,” “addict,” or “user”

Instead, use: “Substance use disorder”

Those who battle with drug or alcohol abuse are not just choosing to “abuse” a substance. This behavior is frequently caused by neurobiological causes and psychological difficulties. Naming it a substance use disorder acknowledges these additional characteristics. It reduces some of the stigma associated with the word “substance abuse” and is a modest but meaningful way to show your appreciation for those in recovery from addiction.

  1. The phrase “committed suicide” should not be used

Instead, use: “Died by suicide” or “lost by suicide”

When somebody thinks that deciding to end their life is the greatest option, they are probably not seeing reality correctly. This is a sign of certain mental diseases. The phrase “committed” suicide implies blame. We wouldn’t criticize someone if they died of cancer. So, if someone dies by suicide as a result of mental health concerns, we should adopt language that eliminates guilt and shame.

Making these modifications concerning how we communicate about mental disorders could help individuals feel less awkward having conversations that are honest about suicidal thoughts or self-harming actions.