We Need To Stop Using Mental Illness To Negatively Describe People

“They’re mental”

“So bipolar”

“What a psycho”

“That’s crazy/insane”

Lets be honest here; It’s lazy and ignorant to use a mental illness to negatively describe someone. They’re a myriad of words you can use to describe a situation, or person. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with mental illness. What do you mean when you say these phrases? Are you correlating mental illness with badness, danger, evil? Do you describe people that disagree with you as being mentally ill? These assumptions or connections to mental illness help no one. It doesn’t improve your argument or sufficiently get your point across. In fact, you’re giving the person you’re arguing against an excuse for their behaviour. In the end, it just makes you look foolish.

It can break someone down to hear those words used that way when they’re struggling. When I hear these terms used negatively it breaks my heart. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the effect your words have on vulnerable people. Those who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Imagine yourself with a mental illness. How would you feel if something you lived with everyday was used in a negative way? Used so freely, brazenly out in the open in common language. It would hurt you. It would have a profound impact on how you valued yourself, and how you felt others saw you.

So what words can you use instead?

“Unbelievable”

“Shocking”

“Absurd”

“Awful”

“Outrageous”

“Ridiculous”

“Laughable”

“Fucked up”

“Ludicrous”

“Foolish”

There are many more. I’m a firm believer in using the actual adjective you mean when describing something. When people say there isn’t much stigma left surrounding mental health, I always direct them back to how we all use language. How it’s ingrained in our colloquialisms to call someone “crazy” or “mental”. How casually these terms are used, and the little thought that goes into what we’re saying. How using these words effects how those with mental illnesses are treated. Using these words so negatively keeps the people that need help hidden.

Language is a powerful tool. Use it sensitively and with love.

4 Comments

  1. Barbara Robertson February 25, 2019 / 1:47 pm

    Beautifully expressed.

    I agree, we use language in a disrespectful and lazy way in relation to mental illness.

    Another thing that infuriates me is using language in relation to gender and hormones to ignore the feelings of anger that might be expressed by women, like ‘She’s on the rag, or her period, it’s that time of life, etc: you know the kind of thing I mean. It’s similar laziness and it is deeply corrosive and belittling to women.

    Power to your pen, Katie, I enjoy reading your blogs which I always find interesting and thought provoking.

    • Katie Conibear February 26, 2019 / 9:57 am

      Thank you.

      You’re right about how language is used in relation to gender, it’s a very similar problem!

  2. Jamie February 26, 2019 / 7:50 am

    I used to get called stubid, lazy,mad, phyco, even aggressive which I am definitely not. All these words hurt when I was in my teens I used to get told I’d never work never love and never have friends. After a while you start to believe it. In fact I was a successful Baker with 15 years in the industry I was respected until my latest stay in hospital in 2010. That was for 6months I haven’t been able to get back to my old self being bipolar and everything that comes with it is proper shit. But as with all mental illness we are human . Not dangerous just normal everyday people. Katie I’m trying to get a blog type thing up and running I’ve created a WordPress. Com account does anyone have any tips sorry for the shameless plug. I hope you are feeling a bit better than you did.

    • Katie Conibear February 26, 2019 / 9:56 am

      I’m so glad you’re thinking of starting a blog! i think the best idea I can give is to be honest and genuine. Write what you would like to read. Good luck and I’m looking forward to reading it 🙂

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