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Why the language surrounding mental health matters - Northern Healthcare

Why the language surrounding mental health matters

We all know someone who constantly refers to themselves as “going psycho” or ‘feeling a bit OCD’ – which may seem to be a harmless comment at first, but this type of language can hinder the support people with these mental health conditions gain as well as adding to the stigma surrounding them. Mental Health is extremely common but is still misunderstood by many people in 2019.

Why do the words I use matter?

Even though the stigma surrounding mental health has decreased substantially over the years, this can still be a huge issue for many people. Stigma is not only an element of the mental health itself but is perceived through the day-to-day language which people feel is OK or socially acceptable. Remember that 1 in 6 of us is experiencing high levels of distress or a common mental health problem every week – therefore it is important to be respectful and thoughtful in the daily language we use.

So, what is the correct terminology?

Like every situation in life, giving consideration to how your words or actions affect others is a good basis to treating people appropriately. As a society we have to be cognisant that mental health isn’t necessarily a visible illness. Unlike when somebody breaks their leg, we can’t always see when a person is battling with mental illness.

Having empathy with people or using empathic language is fine but always remembering that there is no such thing as true empathy. Only the person experiencing thoughts or feelings truly knows how that feels so using phrases like “I know exactly how you feel” or “I feel the same”, whilst meant with the right intention, can be misinterpreted.

Particularly in the media, we often see words such as ‘victim’ or ‘suffering’ in relation to mental illness, the reality of this is that mental health can present significant challenges for individuals but equally it is part of everyone’s personality. We all have to live with mental health however it can present differently in each of us and we therefore all have different ways of living with it or managing it.

If you are currently suffering from mental health issues or just need some advice on the correct terminology to use, then please get in touch with your nearest mental health service.

At Northern Healthcare we provide a high-quality mental health recovery service across the whole of the UK – with our service including both residential units and community outreach programs. With a highly experienced team of clinical experts, we offer 24-hour support for all residents, including occupational therapy and individual care pathways. To find out more visit:


Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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