Psychiatric Liberation/Language and "Mental Illness"

Language is an important feature of psychiatric liberation. How a statement is structured can determine its true-false modality in logic. How we communicate and perceive language can miscommunicate our thoughts and misconstrue our conclusions on what others are communicating. Words are powerful units of statements. Old, inaccurate descriptors, along with the inappropriate use of medical diagnoses, perpetuate negative stereotypes and reinforce an incredibly powerful attitudinal barrier. This invisible and potent attitudinal barrier, not the diagnosis or alleged disability, is the greatest obstacle facing both individuals with so-called "mental illness" and the persons attempting to understand them as a means to best evaluate, counsel and help them. When professionals make the diagnosis regarding another person's mental health they run a very real risk of causing nontherapeutic devaluation and disrespect by and of the patient for him or her self.

Person-First Language


When using person-first language, we acknowledge that persons are distanced from self-awareness when we refer to him or her as an adjective that others use to describe something unexpected with his or her ability (erroneously "disabilities"). A word used to describe a deconstructed part of them. We avoid referring to persons as adjectives such as: the aphasic, the schizophrenic, stutterers, cleft palated, or the hearing impaired. Remain cognizant of the presumptuously definitive nature of placing the adjective before the person it describes and avoid expressions such as: the cleft palate children, the hearing impaired client, the dyslexic lawyer or the retarded adult. Instead, we use: people with a cleft palate, the person who is a lawyer who has dyslexia, persons who stutter, the speech of children with language impairment or the speech of individuals who stutter. In fact, the terms "disorder, impairment, disability, illness" are likely most helpful when they describe the cause of the difficulty from the patient's current perspective when speaking therapeutically with the patient versus the perspective of the therapist during critical thinking, assessment, diagnosing, and formulation of the plan of care. Instead of "the speech of children with language impairment", "Children who are feeling anxious and frustrated related to impaired self-esteem secondary to perception of communication impairment."