mental health

Language Matters When Discussing Mental Health

With a world divided and high anxiety plaguing nearly everyone, the importance of Mental Health Month is greater than ever.

#BetterTogether is brought to you by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

TuscBDD serves children and adults with developmental disabilities and mental health illnesses. During the month of May, advocacy for providing support, fighting the stigma, and educating others about mental health is the main focus.

This month, as you recognize and learn more about mental health and those who struggle with mental illness, take the time to focus on language. What you say is important in addressing others and providing a safe, inclusive space for them.

Mental Health & Language

When discussing mental health, it’s important to use supportive language. Someone is sharing their stories or trauma with you, and you need to provide a safe and compassionate environment for them.

  • Instead of “You need to move on” or “Other people have it much worse than you”, try “I’m sorry that you are struggling and I am here to help. It does not matter how long it’s been- you deserve support and healing.”
  • Do not push positive advice or mantras their way. Instead, validate the person’s feelings and allow them space for all their emotions, even the negative ones.
  • Do not gaslight their experience- “Maybe it’s not as bad as you’re remembering it.” Instead, listen to their words and show support and compassion.

Language & Developmental Disabilities

When talking about developmental disabilities, use people-first language. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking with a person with developmental disabilities or not. Fighting stigma and discrimination needs to happen in public and behind closed doors.

  • Instead of “the mentally ill”, say “a person with a mental illness.”
  • When discussing others say, “she is a person who uses a wheelchair” or “he has borderline personality disorder.” Do not say “she is wheelchair-bound” or “He’s borderline.”
  • Use language that describes what a person has, not what a person is.

TuscBDD provides many resources on their website for people with developmental disabilities as well as mental health struggles. Oftentimes, people with developmental disabilities and their families are in need of both services. You can find support groups, education, and more at

The Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities (TuscBDD) has resources for children and adults with developmental disabilities. TuscBDD provides Early Intervention for children birth to three years old, Service and Support Administration for people of all ages, family support services, family mentorship, and more! To learn more about these services, visit the TuscBDD website at

Audrey Mattevi

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