By Sinalo Siduna
Language is just as crucial to mental health as treatment and medication. Language is a potent instrument and the primary means of human communication. It elicits sentiments, transmits values, and disseminates information and ideas among individuals. And for this reason, it is crucial in the prevention, care, and rehabilitation of mental health problems.
Destigmatization is one of the most frequently discussed issues in relation to the use of language to promote mental health awareness. The first step in treating mental illness is recognizing the problem and obtaining expert medical assistance, just like with other physiological issues. The sad thing is that many people hesitate to take this action out of concern that they could be identified with the derogatory terminology that is frequently used to describe mental health disorders. Health care practitioners can encourage persons with mental health conditions to seek help and make treatment more accessible by using language that is neutral and suitable.
We might decide that it is worthwhile to be more careful with the words we use to describe mental health if we are aware of the significant processes that words set off in our brains. Words that are obviously discriminatory—like “nuttery” and “mental”—should not be used. Then there are terms that have changed over time from their original contexts and are now too emotionally charged to be used in our current setting.
It is crucial and changing how we discuss mental illness in our close surroundings. Suicide is an important case in point. The phrase “committed suicide” is used frequently. When suicide was viewed as a sin and a crime, the word “committed” was first used. Either you break the law or sin. Both describe suicide. Thankfully, there is a growing worldwide consensus on this.
Use of phrases like “took his/her own life,” “ended his/her own life,” or “completed suicide” would be much more considerate given the effects that suicide can have on the bereaved family, friends, and coworkers. Sometimes we refer to someone who has attempted suicide and lived to claim that they were “unsuccessful” in doing so. However, it practically suggests that we expected them to “succeed” when we say that someone has been “unsuccessful”. We use highly emotional words.
There are considerate and acceptable methods to discuss the matter when helping someone who has a mental health condition. To name a few:
Use language that is person-centered and emphasizing the individual rather than their situation;
Avoid jargon and use plain, straightforward terms that are simple to understand and process;
Never presume or try to understand another person’s emotions;
Avoid using caustic language or words indicative of pity (such as “suffer”) when discussing the disease.