How we should label mental health
Please explain to me why you would accommodate anyone directing a “stigma” against anyone (see "RAMHA brings National Mental Health Awareness Week to Rice")
“Advocacy For” is the positive use of language to achieve positive goals. It is measured by the frequency of positive affirmations and the infrequency of negatives. As simple as that seems, recognizing the positives and the negatives in a society which confuses the two is often difficult.
The use of positives must be deliberate, constant and consistent, for it takes many positives to overcome one single negative. Though it is a rule of “Advocacy For” to present the positive, sometimes negatives are so well established, focusing on them can bring them clearly to people’s consciousness.
In the simplest, most common of metaphors lie the most powerful negatives.
A first primer of ‘don’ts’
Avoid the intransitive verbs “are” or “is” and thereby avoid the offensive labeling of people as “schizophrenics” or “a schizophrenic.” Instead, use person-first language and name the illness, such as “He/she has schizophrenia.”
Avoid the articles “the,” “a,” and thereby avoid “the” mentally ill, “a” depressive. Use “person-first” language, such as “people with bipolar disorder” or an “individual with depression.”
Avoid using adjectives that label people. Instead, use substantives, naming their conditions.
Avoid “mental illness.” Whenever you can, use the fully informative, specific diagnosis.
Avoid “mental illness” in the singular. Use the plural “mental illnesses” as there are many.
Avoid “mental” illness. Whenever possible, use illness instead. They are illnesses.
Avoid the innuendo “stigma” — it victimizes. Use instead “prejudice” or “discrimination,” specifics which can be concretely addressed or redressed.
Avoid recounting “myths,” as they are repeated in folk cultures well-known. Instead, inform and educate to truths.
Harold A. Maio, Retired mental health editor
More from The Rice Thresher
“Statues are not meant to teach events. They are constructed to honor the memory of those depicted. Like all slave owners, William Marsh Rice is not worth reverence,” write Taylor Crain (Lovett ‘21), Lauren Palladino (Duncan ‘21), Emily Weaver (Jones ‘22) and Divine Webber (Duncan ‘22).
“To make a true difference in creating an equitable society, Rice’s course should educate students on the history and sociology of race as a construct, how systemic racism manifests in every facet of society and how to be anti-racist rather than simply not racist,“ writes Nicole Zhao (Brown ‘15).
“In this cultural moment the university can no longer play the same old games of working groups and task forces to confront its racist history. Therefore I am calling for the replacement of the statue of William Marsh Rice in the middle of Rice University’s campus with one of Raymond Johnson, the first Black graduate student at Rice and a current professor in the math department,” writes Yoseph Maguire (Wiess ‘18).