If only we knew how much power lay in a single word.
Words wield the power to heal or to hurt; to bless or to curse; to reveal or to mislead; to inspire or to discourage.
The root of stigma against mental illnesses is perpetuated by our choice of words. Let’s change that. Instead of labelling someone as ‘depressive’, ‘schizophrenic’ or ‘psychotic’, simply state that someone has depression, suffers from schizophrenia or experiences psychosis.
After all, we don’t usually say someone is cancerous. We say that person is battling cancer.
By doing so, we separate the illness from the sufferer. That would also aid us in understanding the illness better, and focus our efforts on managing its symptoms. Only by objectively discerning the illness can we fully appreciate the sufferer for who they are without it.
Mental health sufferers then need not bear the shame, blame and stigma of being ill. Change begins with us. Let us stomp out the stigma, one word at a time.
Never, ever, ever, underestimate the power your words can have – Jeff Goins
Update: We came across a brochure by The Singapore Association for Mental Health which provides further examples of People-First Language, so do check it out here: http://www.samhealth.org.sg/people-first-language/
Image Source: The Tapestry Project SG