Norfolk MP joins fight to tackle mental health terminology being misused, despite growing awareness

Norman Lamb aims to tackle the inappropriate language used in connection with mental health issues.  Picture: Norman Lamb's office

Norman Lamb aims to tackle the inappropriate language used in connection with mental health issues. Picture: Norman Lamb's office


North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has backed a campaign to stop words such as schizo and psychotic being used outside of their mental health context.

Concerns have been raised that a disconnect remains between people’s understanding of mental health and the language they use, despite more awareness of the illness and conditions.

Mr Lamb has teamed up with healthcare provider Bupa and Mental Health First Aid England, which offers training courses to help raise awareness of the illness, in calling for more to be done to stop medical terms being hi-jacked and used incorrectly in everyday conversations.

It comes as a new study by Bupa found that about 55pc of women have used inappropriate mental health terms to describe themselves with men and under-35s most likely to use mental health descriptors as an insult.

Schizophrenic and psychotic are the words that people find most offensive when not used in a medical context.

Mr Lamb said: “Misusing definitions of mental ill health confuses our understanding of already-complex conditions.

“We should be sensitive to the negative impact caused by the derogatory or casual use of words like schizophrenic and autistic, which can stigmatise people with those conditions. We want to support, not alienate, those with mental ill health – we shouldn’t trivialise what they’re going through.”

Poppy Jaman, chief executive, Mental Health First Aid England, said everyday language was still contributing towards the stigma of mental health.

She said: “We can never underestimate the subtle but integral role language has to play in creating the cultures and communities in which we live and work, be that in terms of diversity, gender, or mental health.”

And she added that everyone had a responsibility to choose appropriate words and phrases.

High-profile figures such as Alistair Campbell, Lady Gaga, Frank Bruno and Catherine Zeta-Jones, have helped people become more comfortable talking about mental health.

And Pablo Vandenabeele, clinical director for Mental Health at Bupa UK, said he had seen a positive change in people’s attitude to mental health.

words that people find offensive when used outside of the mental health context include schizophrenic/schizo, psychotic, special needs, autistic and bi-polar.

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