People with Mental Illness Aren’t Defined by their Diagnosis

People with Mental Illness Aren’t Defined by their Diagnosis

Words can have a surprising effect, and according to a recent Ohio State study, they should be chosen carefully when it comes to people with mental illness. The researchers found that when it comes to how others view people with mental illness, the term “the mentally ill” produced a consistently negative response, compared to the more humanistic “people with mental illness” – which reminds us mental illness doesn’t make someone any less of a person, or any less deserving of care and respect.

The concept of this person-first language isn’t new; the push to change how we frame mental illness in language began in the 1990s. Todd Gibbs, one of the researchers in this recent study, explained, “Person-first language is a way to honor the personhood of an individual by separating their identity from any disability or diagnosis he or she might have.” Essentially, it means a person with mental illness is never defined by his or her diagnosis.

Read more from The Ohio State University:

Why you should never use the term ‘the mentally ill’

Study finds differences in tolerance depending on language used

By: Jeff Grabmeier
Published on January 26, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Even subtle differences in how you refer to people with mental illness can affect levels of tolerance, a new study has found.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers found that participants showed less tolerance toward people who were referred to as “the mentally ill” when compared to those referred to as “people with mental illness.”

For example, participants were more likely to agree with the statement “the mentally ill should be isolated from the community” than the almost identical statement “people with mental illnesses should be isolated from the community.”

These results were found among college students and non-student adults – and even professional counselors who took part in the study.

The findings suggest that language choice should not be viewed just as an issue of “political correctness,” said Darcy Haag Granello, co-author of the study and professor of educational studies at The Ohio State University.

This isn’t just about saying the right thing for appearances,” she said. “The language we use has real effects on our levels of tolerance for people with mental illness.” Read more