How do we combat social stigma through words?

How do we combat social stigma through words?

In the previous article, we discussed what social stigma is, in what forms it appears, and the consequences it can have. In this article, we want to focus our attention on methods to combat stigma through words, starting with the vocabulary we use daily.


How do we recognize social stigma?

It is easiest at the verbal level. The most common formulations expressing stigma in mental health are those that perceive individuals with mental health issues in a negative way or label them incorrectly. These include:


  1. “He/she is crazy.” – a derogatory term used to describe someone with a mental disorder, this being stigmatizing.

  2. “It’s not a real problem.” – a statement that invalidates and minimizes the severity of mental disorders, suggesting they are not as serious as physical health problems.

  3. “He/she shouldn’t worry so much.” – a statement that minimizes the difficulties a person with a mental disorder may experience, suggesting they should ignore them.

  4. “He/she hasn’t done anything to improve the situation.” – a statement that blames the affected person, suggesting they are not making enough effort to recover.

  5. “He/she needs to get over it.” – a comment that simplifies the recovery process and ignores the complexity of mental health treatment.

  6. “It’s not normal.” – a statement suggesting that people with mental disorders are different from others, causing them to feel that something is wrong with themselves, internalizing the message.

  7. “He/she needs to act normal.” – a statement suggesting that people with mental disorders should hide their symptoms and behave as if they don’t have any problems.

  8. “I really don’t understand why he/she feels that way.” – a statement that may indicate a lack of empathy and understanding towards a person with a mental disorder.

  9. “If he/she were stronger, they could overcome this.” – a statement that blames the affected person for their condition and minimizes the impact of the mental disorder.

  10. “He/she shouldn’t let the condition control him/her.” – a statement excluding the fact that mental disorders can significantly impact a person’s life and cannot be easily controlled just by will.


These verbal formulations can contribute to perpetuating stigma and marginalizing people with mental health issues. It is important to be aware of them and promote a more sensitive and empathetic language and attitude towards these individuals to reduce stigma and create a more accepting and supportive environment.


Positive Expressions


There are many expressions and phrases that can contribute to combating social stigma and promoting a more empathetic and open attitude towards human diversity and mental health. Here are some examples:


  1. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” – This expression reminds us not to draw quick conclusions or make judgments about people based on their external appearance.

  2. “Words matter.” – This phrase reminds us that the language we use can influence our perceptions and attitudes and should be used carefully.

  3. “You are not alone.” – This expression conveys a message of support and solidarity for those facing mental health issues.

  4. “We are all in the same boat.” – This expression emphasizes solidarity and the fact that we face difficulties and challenges together.

  5. “Let me listen to you.” – This expression provides an opportunity to listen to someone without judgment and create a safe space for open discussions.

  6. “Nobody is perfect.” – Reminding us that nobody is immune to difficulties and imperfections can reduce pressure on others and ourselves.

  7. “It’s OK not to be OK.” – This expression emphasizes that it is normal to go through tough times and that we don’t have to hide or deny our own emotions and feelings.

  8. “I am here whenever you need.” – This expression offers unconditional support and can be a crucial factor in reducing social isolation and stigma.

  9. “Ask, don’t assume.” – Encouraging openness to dialogue and asking questions to better understand others’ experiences.

  10. “Be kinder to yourself.” – This expression reminds us to take care of our own mental health and not be too harsh on ourselves.


The Need for a Change in Perception

To combat stigma in mental health, it is essential to change the perception of mental health issues. Education and awareness about mental health can contribute to dispelling myths and incorrect stereotypes. It is important to promote open discussions and encourage an attitude of empathy and support towards individuals with mental disorders.

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