​At a glance

When speaking with someone living with a mental health condition the language you use must be respectful and accepting. The messages you give need to be clear, positive and show that you see that person as an individual.

Do:

  • focus on the person, not the mental health condition
  • use language that is easy to understand
  • focus on strengths and abilities, not just issues and problems
  • check that you have correctly understood what you have been told
  • check that the person has understood what you have said
  • ask, never assume
  • remember that your role is to support the person, check what support they want and need, and ask before jumping in and helping.

Don’t:

  • pretend to know how someone else feels
  • use terms that show pity e.g. that they are suffering from depression
  • use inappropriate words that are condescending or stigmatising, like psycho, crazy
  • blame the person for their condition or their circumstances
  • use jargon
  • be judgemental or argumentative
  • show any form of anger or hostility
  • be sarcastic of make jokes about their condition
  • treat someone like they are inferior.

Resources

What not to say to someone with schizophrenia?
This video provides an insight into the effect words can have when talking to someone with a mental health condition.
Type: Video | Closed captions
Viewing time: 1:05
Produced by: SANE Australia

What NOT to say to someone with a mental health issue
This web page provides a quick reminder of what not to say to someone with a mental health issue.
Type: Web page
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
Produced by: Health Direct

Recovery Oriented Language Guide
This is a practical guide about using recovery orientated language.
Type: Guide
Reading time: 16 pages
Produced by: Mental Health Coordinating Council

Current as at: Monday 24 February 2020
Contact page owner: Mental Health Branch