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Types of problems with mental health language

In a field like academia where intelligence and ingenuity are highly valued, the conversations on not meeting those expectations can quickly become toxic.

Mental health stigma is rampant in academia, and language contributes by normalizing this discrimination.

Avoid propagating the stigma and be a good ally by keeping in mind these ways conversations around mental health can harm rather than help.

Types of problems with speaking about mental health:

1) Dismissive Language: Not recognizing their struggles results in invalidating the person and reinforcing the stigma.

2) Misuse of Language: Referring to a person by a mental health descriptor reduces them to their struggle rather than a whole human being.

3) Ableist Language: Inappropriate use of mental health descriptors to describe the intelligence and ability of a person, regardless of their stage in life, are insulting and degrading.


If you find yourself wanting to work on improving your use of mental health language, our Speaking team can help your university facilitate this conversation. Write to us at


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