5 Phrases That Hurt Your Coworkers Living With Mental Illness

Using language that shames people who live with mental illness is so ubiquitous, sometimes we speak without considering the ramifications of our words. But even if we have no ill-intent, certain practices proliferate harmful stereotypes. Stopping the practice of using demeaning language can help stop the spread of negative stigmas associated with mental illnesses.

Describing someone as being a psychopath because they yelled at you or behaved carelessly doesn’t help anyone involved in the situation. Instead of labeling someone as ‘psycho’ or ‘crazy,’ describe what they did and how it made you feel.

1. Diagnosing others as an insult.

When a person with a mental illness is showing outward symptoms, it’s a serious thing. Joking about celebrity mental illness can seem like an easy target—after all, you don’t even know them—but hearing someone laugh at someone else's mental illness can make people who have those disorders feel ashamed.

2. Making jokes at the expense of mentally ill people.

When you reach for medical terms to describe things you don’t like about yourself, it trivializes the disorder and is also just a really lazy shortcut. Even when these labels are not used maliciously, they can still do harm by pushing stereotypes and making it seem as if the illness is not that big of a deal or something to be ashamed of.

3. Self-diagnosing as a means of description.

Whether it’s someone you know personally or not, using a person’s diagnosis as a label about their entire personality is reductive. Taking one biological occurrence and making it the most important thing about them is rude and unnecessary. 

4. Labeling those living with mental illness by their diagnosis

Implying that a person who behaves in an unpleasant way should be on medication as a slight that only demeans people. Making the step to take a medication for a mental illness is a huge decision, and making it the butt of a joke isn’t cool.

5. Shaming medication taking.