UNITED KINGDOM: Mind Your Language: A Guide to Talking About Mental Health

March 02, 2018

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


Research in the UK found that mental health terms are commonly misused for negative effect. A survey done by the international health care group Bupa and Mental Health First Aid England found that nearly half of respondents have used terms such as “psychotic” and “schizophrenic” to incorrectly describe themselves. Women were more likely to misuse mental health terms to criticize themselves, while men were more likely to use those terms to insult someone else. The organizations warned that the regular misuse of mental health terms can make it difficult for those who are struggling to feel comfortable opening up and reaching out for help. Language that negatively stereotypes or makes light of mental illness can be harmful to those who experience it, according to Mental Health Foundation spokesperson Cal Strode. “The burden of dispelling these stereotypes can often fall on the people living with them and feel exhausting,” he said. Recommendations put out by the mental health campaign Time to Change advise journalists and members of the public not to label people with mental illness. For example, instead of calling someone a “psycho” or “schizo,” they recommend referring to them as “a person who has experienced psychosis” or “a person who has schizophrenia.”

Spark Extra! Check out the Time to Change recommendations for talking about mental health.