Stigmatized Language and Phrases to Avoid


Mia Souther, Chief of Staff, Editor of Wellness

Stigmatized language includes phrases that may be triggering for individuals with a mental health diagnosis or that reinforce the stigma that surrounds mental health. It’s important to avoid using stigmatized language/phrases to create a comfortable and respectful environment for all.


Using the term “committed” is common when referring to suicide. However, many don’t realize that “committed” has a negative connotation associated with crime. When referring to suicide always use phrases like “victim of,” “passed away from,” or “due to.” 

Using Mental Health Diagnosis as Slang 

It’s not uncommon to hear phrases such as “you’re mood changed so fast you must be bipolar” or “wow you’re acting so bipolar today” used in everyday conversation. Phrases like the examples above, reinforce the stigma around real mental health diagnoses especially for individuals living with bipolar. This is why it is crucial to avoid using mental health diagnoses in casual phrases. 

Another example of this is “psycho, mad, lunatic, or mental patient.”

These words when used in circumstances of mental health conversations can reinforce stigma or create an uncomfortable environment. Instead, you can refer to someone with a mental health diagnosis like so “an individual with a mental health diagnosis” or “an individual living with a mental illness.” 

Bullet Points 

We use this phrase a lot when creating slideshows, taking notes, etc… it’s a hard habit to break. Nonetheless, using the word “bullet” in everyday phrases or to describe something can be triggering to many individuals especially those living with PTSD or other traumas. Instead, try saying “important point,” “dash,” or “note.” 

“Hang in There”

This phrase is intended to be comforting but for individuals with particular mental health diagnoses, this could be a trigger phrase. Try using other comfort phrases like “I’m here for you.” “remain hopeful,” or “don’t give up.”

They are *insert mental health diagnosis here*

Phrases like this can be interpreted that the individual is their mental illness when really they are so much more than that. This reinforces stigma. 

Breaking the habit of stigmatized language takes practice. Now that you have gained more knowledge on this subject it’s my hope you will be able to catch yourself using these phrases and switch to an alternative.