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

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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 which everyone 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.”

Anonymous

 

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 too 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 must 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 with 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: https://healthproadvice.com/mental-health/Stigma-and-Mental-Illness-Exploring-Derogatory-Terms

MENTAL HEALTH STIGMA

 

What can you do to fight mental health stigma?”

 

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

  • Talk Openly About Mental Health

  • Educate Yourself And Others

  • Be Conscious Of Language

  • Encourage Equality Between Physical And Mental Illness

  • Show Compassion For Those With Mental Illness

  • Choose Empowerment Over Shame

  • Be Honest About Treatment

  • Let The Media Know When They’re Being Stigmatizing

  • Don’t Harbor Self-Stigma

Mother and Son

Words have power give them power to heal.