Be aware of the language you use, especially around mental health, and try and challenge yourself not to use stigmatising language and ask others not to use it if you notice it being used.
Avoid using terms like “crazy” or “mad”. If you’re talking about a situation, think of other descriptive words, like “hectic” or “chaotic”, and if you’re talking about a person you could try words like “distressed” or “angry”.
If you notice others using these words casually, try to ask them to use different words. You could say something like “hey, I’d prefer it if you didn’t use the word ‘crazy’ – it can have a bad impact on people who have experienced mental ill-health – could you use the word ‘hectic’ instead?”
Some terms based on specific mental illnesses can also lead to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination.
Terms such as “psychotic”, “schizo”, “manic” have been used to discriminate against people.
It might be tempting to use these terms when someone’s behaviour is awful or incomprehensible. However, there is a difference between behaviour and mental illness. Most people who have received diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and others will never engage in those behaviours which are labelled with these terms, and many people without a diagnosis (and who don’t meet the criteria for diagnosis) will behave in ways that are awful and incomprehensible.
Separating behaviours from diagnoses is important to challenging mental health stigma and prejudice. To challenge this form of stigma, try to be aware of words you use that are based in a diagnosis or symptom and find other words that describe the behaviour, rather than a diagnosis.
Illness-specific terms are also sometimes used jokingly to describe behaviours, like when someone who has a preference for tidiness says “oh, I’m so OCD”. This can make the impact of OCD seem unimportant when it can be extremely difficult for individuals who experience it. It’s best to avoid using illness-specific terms in this way.