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Advocacy For Language:
A Mental Health Primer

By Harold A. Maio

"Advocacy For"

“Advocacy For” is the positive use of language to achieve positive goals. It is measured by the frequency of positive affirmations, 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 as many positives to overcome one single negative. In the simplest of metaphors lie the most powerful negatives.

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 peoples’ consciousness. In the simplest, most common of metaphors lie the most powerful negatives.

Language: A Mental Health Primer

a First Primer of "Don'ts"

Avoid the 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 using adjectives that label people. Instead, use substantives, naming their conditions.

Avoid the article "the" and thereby avoid "the mentally ill."   Use "person-first" language, such as "people with bipolar disorders" or an "individual with bipolar disorder. "

Avoid "mental illness" in the singular. Use the plural, "mental illnesses " as there are many.

Avoid the abstract, "mental illness," whenever you can use the fully informative specific diagnosis.

Avoid the abstract, non-specific term "stigma" as 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.