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The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers nine ways to fight mental health stigma:

  • Talk Openly About Mental Health

  • Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness

  • Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma

  • Be Conscious Of Language

  • Be Honest About Treatment

  • Educate Yourself And Others

  • Choose Empowerment Over Shame

  • Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing

  • Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness

The Power of Words:
How They Can Influence The Stigma Of Mental Illness

By: Denise Holcomb

How often have you heard the statement “Words have power” or “Words can hurt?”  When it comes to mental illness and stigma, words can also “destroy” hope.  One of the main things we must understand is that there is power in the tongue. Meloncauli in her article “Stigma and Mental Illness: Exploring Derogatory Terms” makes a statement that every one of us should consider thinking about, (including physicians, caregivers, and family members).  Meloncauli says, “We have probably all been guilty of using derogatory terms, to describe those who have a mental illness.  We were conditioned as we grew up to look at people as either "normal" or "abnormal" based on their outward behavior and how they fit in with society's norms.”


“The tongue has no bones

but is strong enough to break a heart.

So be careful with your words.”



We also live in a society that is quick to identify a person with a mental illness by their illness instead of by their identity.  Imagine, your primary physician is concerned about your blood pressure, and he or she sends you to see a specialist.  When the doctor walks into the room they look at your record and say “Good Morning, Miss Blood Pressure, my name is Dr. Stan.” Does this make sense?  No.  But too often people with mental illnesses are identified by their illness, or by other demeaning names, by others, and at times even themselves.  To be truthful most of us would never really want to identify someone by their illness.  However, it happens more often than not. 

If we want to remove stigma and begin instilling healing and hope within our community we must remove words that tear down.  Words and labels such as Crazy, Weirdo, Schizo, Bipolar,  Nuts, (and I’m sure you can name more), are demeaning and unproductive.  The point is people are people.  God created us all as human beings.  Recovery is possible, but it needs to start with positive words and attitudes that create life and hope; not damaging words that hurt and destroy. If we as a society understand how much power is in the tongue, we can use more positive words to promote faster healing for those who suffer from mental illness.


“A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.”  Anonymous


 Source: MELONCAULI. (2017, May 16). HealthProAdvice. Retrieved from Stigma-and-Mental-Illness Exploring-Derogatory-Terms:

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