WE ALL pepper these words throughout our conversations but according to the experts, they’re actually very damaging.
MENTAL health experts say words have enormous power — and there are some you should stop using in conversation.
A new charter has been launched today to raise awareness of the right and wrong language to use when talking about mental illness and suicide.
Even when not used malicious, terms such as nutter, lunatic, psycho, schizo, deranged, mad and mental patient should be avoided, according to Everymind Director Jaelea Skehan.
Using the word schizophrenic to denote duality — such as a ”schizophrenic economy” to describe rapid fiscal movements — was also potentially damaging.
The new guide, which aims to help business, government, media and the community, says that using language that sensationalizes mental illness can reinforce stigma.
“It is more than just the words we use, it’s about including people, valuing people and encouraging everyone to take action — whether that is seeking help or offering help to others,” Ms Skehan said.
Other things to avoid are terminology that suggests a lack of quality of life for people with mental illnesses, labelling someone by their mental health issues and colloquialisms like “happy pills” or “shrinks”.
The charter also provides guidance around suicide language, including avoiding sensational descriptions or a suggestion that it is a desired outcome.
“We know that over four million Australians will experience mental illness this year and about eight people die by suicide each day,” Ms Skehan said.
“These are not small issues, they are big issues that require a big response. What we say as a sector and as a community can literally be the difference between whether or not a person feels comfortable to speak up and seek help, which can have tragic consequences if they stay silent.”
Lachlan Searle, the director of external relations at Mental Health Australia, said the words used in every day life have huge power.
“We strive for mentally healthy people and communities and encourage everyone to help shed a more positive light on mental health and reduce stigma around mental illness,” he said.
The charter was launched by Health Minister Greg Hunt today in the lead up to World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 and R U OK? DAY on September 13.
“I’m delighted to officially launch the charter, which aims to generate a united voice to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and normalize help-seeking behavior,” Mr Hunt said.
“The charter provides guidance on language and communications in supporting people with a mental health condition.”