Words can hurt.
Words can heal.
Its up to us to choose wisely.
The way we talk to ourselves–our own inner dialog–and the way we express our thoughts to others truly makes a difference.
This is so important with mental health.
Using words like “crazy” or “insane” do nothing to help reduce stigma. I mean how many times have you heard someone say “Oh, she’s just bat shit crazy!” or ”I could just kill myself!” when they’ve make a mistake. That kind of talking perpetuates stigma, but it can roll off the tongue so easily, even for me.
I decided a while ago to be very conscious of the words I use in my daily life as well as on this blog. I want to do my part to fight stigma as you may know.
So I was thrilled to see just last week the Associated Press Style Book–the definitive guide for grammar, style and approach in media reporting–added an entry on the coverage mental illness.
That is SO awesome.
Because the way that media (including blogs) and companies write about or broadcast about mental illness and suicide is so vital to reducing stigma. For those of us who have mental illness but especially for those who do not understand.
Here is a snippet of the new entry in the AP Style Book. (For complete details go HERE.):
“Mental illness is a general condition. Specific disorders are types of mental illness and should be used whenever possible: He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to court documents. She was diagnosed with anorexia, according to her parents. He was treated for depression.
Some common mental disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health…:
- Autism spectrum disorders. These include Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. Many experts consider autism a developmental disorder, not a mental illness.
– Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness)
– Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
– Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.
Do not assume that mental illness is a factor in a violent crime, and verify statements to that effect. A past history of mental illness is not necessarily a reliable indicator. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.
Avoid descriptions that connote pity, such as afflicted with, suffers from or victim of. Rather, he has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Double-check specific symptoms and diagnoses. Avoid interpreting behavior common to many people as symptoms of mental illness. Sadness, anger, exuberance and the occasional desire to be alone are normal emotions experienced by people who have mental illness as well as those who don’t.
Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.
Use the term mental or psychiatric hospital, not asylum.”
What do you think? Did they get it right? Do you think choice of words makes a difference?
Here’s another example that’s been floating around the Interwebs lately. I think these are so smart and so right. Think of the many stigmas that could be reduced if we just took the time to choose our words wisely in ALL aspects of our life.