Sticks and Stones May Break Our Bones, But Words Can Hurt Forever…

How do the words we use impact our personal attitudes and beliefs? Does our word choice also influence the biases of the people around us? Words have power – the power to encourage, to support, to soothe and to heal. Words also have the power to judge, to intimidate, to wound and to discriminate.

crazy       nuts        insane       mental

These words are routinely interspersed through our vocabularies. They are used to suggest a situation that is out of control, or significantly different from the typical. Using these words in such a manner perpetuates a negative stereotype for people who have a mental illness – one quarter of the population! To consistently challenge stigma, we need to become aware of our language, our tone, the slang we use, and our personal biases. Doing so allows us to recognize words that might be insensitive or discriminate against groups of people.

Making a conscious decision to avoid words that have negative connotations to groups of people, we take the first step to b’ing stigma-free. Words that are judgmental carry a stigma. They make people feel less than whole. Instead of being seen as a person, they may feel identified by (and judged by!) their race, their culture, their appearance, their disability, their disease, their diagnosis, or some other characteristic.

Instead of saying, “Jon is schizophrenic.” Try saying “Jon is a person with schizophrenia.” Or “Jon has schizophrenia.”

By choosing our words carefully and consciously we can create a nurturing and supportive environment that allows all people to thrive because they feel valued, accepted and respected.

Our first step is b‘ing aware.

Spotlight Calendar

Each month B Stigma-Free will spotlight a different area for attention. Blog articles, fact sheets and social media emphasis will call attention to the issue of stigma and the identified topic. Do you have suggestions for us to include? Tell us your ideas here.