In terms of breaking stigmas in mental health care and how we think about mental health, does what we say matter? Do we actually perpetuate stigmas by participating in conversations where the misinformed or stigmatized language is used? Imagine Joe, who has privately managed bipolar disorder for the past 12 years, having a conversation with a coworker. The coworker mentions a mutual acquaintance. This acquaintance just returned from a stay at a residential mental health treatment center. Joe\u2019s coworker says, \u201cI had no idea she was crazy, did you?\u201d Joe\u2019s insides do a few somersaults. Joe currently receives mental health treatment. Despite years of education, support, mental health treatment and self-awareness around his bipolar diagnosis, Joe still has a thought flash through his head, \u201cDoes this mean I\u2019m crazy?\u201d During his time at the company, Joe had taken sick leave when his medication needed adjusting. He even took vacation time when his depression became severe and interfered with his ability to work. Recently, he considered sharing his diagnosis with human resources to create some accommodations, which could profoundly lighten Joe\u2019s burden around work and mental health management. After the conversation with this coworker, however, Joe shuts down any thought of sharing his diagnosis. While privacy laws prevent human resources from sharing personal details, Joe\u2019s coworker brought back a harsh reality for many managing a mental health disorder.\u00a0 There are still stigmas around mental health care. The language we use on the subject is a powerful gauge and reflection on our collective bias. Joe isn\u2019t crazy, and neither is his friend who exhibited the courage to reach out for help. Sadly, despite some staggering statistics around the prevalence of mental health disorders, misinformation and stigmas still prevail. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five Americans is diagnosed with a mental health disorder annually as of 2019. Is this something we can change?\u00a0 Yes. We can change stigmas, but this means watching our words carefully. The Ranch Pennsylvania offers insight into this complicated topic. How does language impact what we think?\u00a0 Linguists research the relationship between language, thought and perception. These discoveries are helpful in terms of mental health care stigmas and mental health treatment. For example, if you know about cognitive therapy, then the idea that language impacts our thoughts and feelings isn\u2019t new. Cognitive therapy is centered on an awareness of our automatic negative thinking and how these thoughts contribute to our mental health. Is the same true, however, for casual conversation? For instance, in Joe\u2019s case, does his co-worker\u2019s poor use of language impact him? Does this language contribute to Joe\u2019s own bias with mental illness? How we learn a language is a vital part of our development when it comes to biases. According to the Linguistic Society of America\u2019s article, \u201cDoes the language I speak influence the way I think?\u201d people tend to group words and thoughts into categories when learning a language. A toddler may see a cow and comment \u201cdog.\u201d When learning English, according to linguists, the child may first group all similar-looking creatures under the category of one word, like \u201cdog.\u201d Eventually, your brain sorts it out and refines it.\u00a0 In New Guinea, the Dani people only have two words (or two categories) for color. In the Dani language, color is either light or dark. PsychologyToday.com also covers language development in the 2017 article, \u201cHow the Language We Speak Affects the Way We Think,\u201d published online. So, what does this have to do with Joe\u2019s conversation and use of the word \u201ccrazy\u201d for someone with a mental health disorder? Think about Joe as a child. He likely heard many conversations and references on TV about people who were \u201ccrazy.\u201d In American society, there\u2019s a tendency to see mental health much like the Dani and their perception of color\u2014either healthy or unhealthy. You are, according to this imprecise idea, either crazy or sane. In truth, there are many shades of colors and many nuances of mental health disorders. However, Joe may still use his original frame of reference despite many hours of education, therapy, other treatment and support.\u00a0 He may have a deep-seated belief because of the language he heard while developing language and, then, throughout his life, supporting the idea that mentally ill people were \u201ccrazy.\u201d In this case, \u201ccrazy\u201d is negative and bad. In the end, society did a number on Joe and his coworker. The consequences are felt today. As someone with a serious, lifelong mental health disorder requiring vigilance and good management, he still must deal with his own and other wrong perceptions around mental health. Sadly, these perceptions still impact his work situation, friendships, recovery and sense of his own worth. Remove mental health stigmas by talking mindfully We\u2019ve established that the language we use impacts our thinking and can strengthen mental health stigmas. If we want to weaken these mental health care stigmas and, hopefully, eliminate them for future generations, everyone needs to watch what the current generation says. Can we make mental health treatment as acceptable as the treatment we receive for physical ailments and wellness checks? For a sobering look at how mental health is stigmatized via the English language, read the journal abstract, \u201c250 labels used to stigmatise people with mental illness,\u201d published by BMC Health Services Research. Put the list on your fridge and work to avoid using this language. Some words to use mindfully: \tDon\u2019t use words like \u201ccrazy\u201d or \u201cdisturbed\u201d when referencing someone\u2019s behavior or personality. It\u2019s one thing to remark, \u201cThe weather last week was crazy\u201d vs. \u201cShe was crazy jealous.\u201d \tAvoid saying \u201cunhinged\u201d and \u201cpsychotic\u201d to describe anyone, even in a joking manner. It makes the misuse of these words acceptable. Psychosis isn\u2019t acceptable as a means of describing anything except actual psychosis. A person who experiences psychosis isn\u2019t a \u201cpsychotic\u201d any more than you\u2019d label someone with an allergy as an \u201callergic.\u201d \t\u201cSuffering from mental illness\u201d contributes to the misnomer that anyone managing a mental illness is miserable and suffering. The term \u201csuffering\u201d is obviously negative. People living with a mental illness can live fulfilling, happy lives. Managing a mental illness doesn\u2019t mean a person is suffering. Instead, use \u201cliving with a mental illness.\u201d Mental health disorders are highly treatable, and the majority of those treated live improved full lives. \tDon\u2019t overgeneralize with the label \u201cmental illness.\u201d Mental illness covers a lot of mental health ground. The phrase can be misleading and vague. Instead, say, \u201ca person has a mental illness,\u201d which supports the reality there are many, many nuances when discussing mental illnesses. \tAvoid using the word \u201cvictim\u201d when describing someone\u2019s experience with a mental illness. Someone managing a mental illness is anything but a victim. Living with a mental illness requires courage, action and self-awareness. Victimhood is not a healthy category to place anyone. \tPhrases and words like \u201cNot right in the head,\u201d \u201cretarded,\u201d or \u201csimple-minded\u201d are often used as derogatory descriptions for someone with a developmental disorder, a mental illness, an unconventional way of living and more. The bottom line is simple. Don\u2019t use phrases or terms meant to insult someone or someone\u2019s choices. Be mindful and specific. \tTry to look beyond the simplistic categories of \u201cnormal\u201d and \u201cabnormal.\u201d Normal doesn\u2019t really exist, does it? What\u2019s normal to one person could be considered abnormal to another. Broaden your understanding of all the complexities which make up one human being. Each of us is normal and abnormal in our own unique way. Read more about specific words to avoid in the article, \u201cLanguage and stigma,\u201d published on the Everymind.org website. What if you mess up? How can you always say the right thing? Well, truthfully, you can\u2019t. Chances are, at some point, you or someone else will cross the line. We all need to be kind to one another, even ourselves when we mess up.\u00a0 Let\u2019s go back to Joe. He\u2019s still feeling uncomfortable after his coworker called a mutual acquaintance \u201ccrazy\u201d in casual conversation after the acquaintance sought help for a mental health crisis. Joe, with this own history of bipolar disorder, is upset and angry about the conversation. The brief remarks left Joe feeling triggered. On some level, he\u2019s also angry with himself for keeping quiet.\u00a0 Stigmas prevail when we are complicit in conversations where the inappropriate language is used. How can Joe confront his coworker without coming off badly? In a work situation, no less?\u00a0 Is it possible for Joe to confront the \u201ccrazy\u201d language used without pulverizing his misinformed co-worker and causing a scene? And, jeopardizing his job in the process? How to handle this conversation is a decision only Joe can make. He needs to make sure he doesn\u2019t put himself in harm\u2019s way, and he\u2019s able to speak his truth about being further offended.\u00a0 Speaking up Scenario One: Joe is diplomatically honest. Joe doesn\u2019t laugh when his coworker makes inappropriate and offensive remarks about the mutual acquaintance. Instead, he says, \u201cI know you don\u2019t mean anything by it, but I can\u2019t laugh about this situation. This is a mutual friend, and I know she\u2019s facing some challenges right now. I prefer to avoid using language like \u201ccrazy.\u201d I also don\u2019t particularly appreciate laughing when someone is in pain.\u201d\u00a0 Scenario Two: Joe ignores the language but makes his feelings known. Joe takes a breath and says, \u201cIt must have taken such courage for her to seek help for a mental illness. I admire such bravery. Instead of using the word \u201ccrazy,\u201d I think \u201cbrave\u201d is a better description. Too many people still misunderstand mental illness. Hopefully, we will learn something from brave people like our friend. I need to get back to work.\u201d\u00a0 Scenario Three: Joe circles back to the conversation after seeking his own support. Joe went home and slept on the situation. He also talked to a few of the people in his mental health support group. The next day, he catches his coworker in the parking lot after work. \u201cYesterday, I felt uncomfortable when we talked about our mutual friend and the word \u201ccrazy\u201d was used. I have some experience dealing with a mental illness in my own family. I\u2019m sure you didn\u2019t mean to say anything offensive, but I felt I needed to speak up. If you have any questions about mental health disorders, I\u2019d be happy to discuss.\u201d In this last example, Joe doesn\u2019t reveal his own diagnosis, but he does share his expertise on the subject. He also turns the situation into an opportunity for discussion. In this way, Joe may be able to dispel some misinformation. This scenario, of course, is assuming Joe\u2019s coworker has the maturity to handle such a conversation. Joe isn\u2019t responsible for setting someone else on the right path. He\u2019s only responsible for being true to himself. If at any time, he felt threatened by this coworker, then all bets are off. Joe cannot put himself in harm\u2019s way. Sadly, some people are comfortable with old stigmas and beliefs. In this case, Joe doesn\u2019t need to put himself in the path of more offensive language.\u00a0\u00a0 Instead, Joe, and all of us, can lead by example. Watch what you say. Language has consequences. When we stray off the path, apologize, if necessary, and get back on the horse. Mindfully, we can push mental health stigmas back under the rock from where they came. Whether you are looking to help fight stigmas in mental health treatment or you need mental health care, The Ranch Pennsylvania is here to help.\u00a0 If you or your loved one is in need, we are ready to help you better understand yourself outside of your mental health condition. Call us today at 717.969.9126 to speak with our recovery specialists and find out more about our mental health disorder treatment options.