It can also reinforce stereotypes and contribute to discrimination. Here are some tips for anyone wishing to learn how to talk about people with mental illness or distress in helpful and supportive ways.  

  • Talk about the person rather than describing them by a label. For example, "Anna has bipolar disorder" or “Anna has a diagnosis of bipolar”, rather than "Anna is bipolar”.
  • Don’t define someone by their mental illness. A person can be a parent, a hard worker, a friend, an artist and have a mental illness. 
  • This is the same for plurals. “They are schizophrenics” becomes “They have schizophrenia”.
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know what to say”. Being open and honest is always the first step. 
  • Avoid using words like “crazy”, “loonie” and “mental” – when describing a person, or something that is “odd”, or “strange”. 
  • There are many different mental illnesses and each person is different. Say "people with depression" instead of "the mentally ill". "Jack has a mental illness" or "Jack has been diagnosed with a mental illness" rather than "Jack has mental illness".
  • Use positive statements rather than placing judgement on people. For example, "Sarah has experience of depression" instead of ‘suffering from', being a ‘victim of’ or ‘afflicted with’ a mental illness.