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  • Writer's pictureNidhi Trivedi

Humane terms to talk about a person with mental health issues

I completely believe that we, as a society, should not restrict freedom of speech or limit vocabulary to an extent that we need to walk on eggshells around politically correct terms. If you would prioritize your freedom of speech over being open to more humane ways to discuss mental health, it is fine by me. However, if you are someone who would appreciate learning about alternate vocabulary to discuss mental health in a way that is less stigmatizing and more supportive, you might be able to gain something from this article.

Truly, a pen indeed is mightier than a sword. Words shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world. Therefore, it is important to use words in a way that helps make someone, and not break someone. Through words, we communicate about how we feel about others and our own self. For individuals who struggle with the feeling of being different from others, strong language could be demoralizing, stigmatizing and confirming of their negative views about self.

We have made significant strides in the way we discuss individuals with medical issues. For example: a person with a terminal illness, a person struggling with diabetes, a person struggling with cancer and so on. We would never use terms such as  a “canceric,” a “diabetic” or a “ fibromyalgic.” This is because it is not appropriate to label a person as their medical issues. Then why don’t we make the same distinction when it comes to mental health issues? Why do we use words like “autistic,” “bipolar,” “schizophrenic,” and so on.

These are some simple and effortless ways to discuss a mental health issue or someone with mental health issues:

  1. Mental health issue or concerns (instead of mental illness)

  2. A person with a mental health issue (instead of crazy, lunatic, emotionally disturbed)

  3. A person with bipolar (instead of a bipolar person)

  4. Consumer of mental health services (instead of mental health patient)

  5. A person seeking therapy/treatment (instead of patient)

  6. A person with substance use issues (instead of junkie, addict, alcoholic)

  7. Differently abled (instead of disabled)

  8. A person with schizophrenia (instead of a schizophrenic)

  9. A person who struggles with depression (instead of a depressed person)

  10. A person with cognitive difficulties (instead of mentally disabled, retarded)

  11. Differently-abled (instead of disabled)

  12. A person who completed suicide (instead of committing suicide like a sin)

  13. Trauma survivor (instead of victim of trauma)

As Gandhi said, it is important to be the change you see in the world. You might not be able to correct the way everyone communicates in the world. However, you might someday get a chance to tell a person with a mental health issue that you see them as a person and not just as their mental health diagnosis.

If you have struggled/struggle with mental health issues, I want to tell you that mental health issues might be an aspect of your life, but not the defining feature of who you are. You are not the mental health issue, but you struggle with one.

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