The Importance of Language in Mental Health Care

The importance of language in mental health care is a very significant yet relatively ignored topic. When we talk about language in relation to mental health care, the choice of words becomes of prime importance. the Importance of language in mental health care

The importance of language in mental health care doesn’t get the attention it should.  The words we choose while dealing with people who are suffering from mental health issues have a lot of impact on their healing process.

The role of language has always been overlooked in concern to mental health. This possesses a sincere need to normalize the conversations and discussions about “how” somebody feels. There is a need to let people know that “It is OKAY to feel a certain way”.

More and more people are coming out with their stories and personal experiences about mental illness, the revolution to normalize the concept of mental health has already begun. But, even today we are far away. We are far from where we intend to reach with respect to mental health conversations.

This blog is an attempt to spark conversations around the subject and help more people become a helping hand to their loved ones.

The Importance of Language in Mental Health Care


The role of language begins at a very initial stage. The word “mental” itself has a negative connotation that has been passed on from generation to generation. The negative reference to the word has been around for as long as one can remember. Hence, it will take time and effort from each of us collectively to break and release the stigma around it.

There is a severe need to destigmatize conversations around mental health for the sake of our future generations. And, the only way to do that is to talk about it. To eradicate the wrong conditioning of the word “mental”, we must do what is within our power. We must initiate and hold conversations and spread awareness about it.

Wrong and careless use of words can lead the other person to have negative feelings. It can lead them to feelings of discrimination, disempowerment, low self-belief, and even lower self-esteem. It can also lead people to develop a self-sabotaging nature. The nature of keeping themselves isolated from the outer world and restricting them to seek help.

Hence, the right choice of words is a matter of great concern when approaching someone battling any kind of mental issue.


How to approach the importance of language in mental health care?

There are two ways in which one can take steps to approach a person experiencing mental illness or to approach for help as someone who is going through some kind of mental health issue:

The Reactive approach and the proactive approach

The reactive approach is waiting for the person to hit rock bottom and get into the most bizarre state before we offer them any help. For yourself, it is like waiting till it goes out of your hands to seek help.

The proactive approach is all about reacting and making moves when you see somebody suffering or seeking out help at an early stage if you are a survivor yourself. The proactive approach is all about intervening at an early stage, it is about allowing the person or yourself to talk and open up about their situation before it becomes hard for them.

The use of language in mental health care has a very powerful impact on the situation and the person. You must not go wrong about it.

Making the right use of your communication skills is an important task when talking about and treating mental health. The language used in conversations about and around mental health must be respectful and empowering. It should not contribute to the continuation of building the stigma around mental health. It should not propagate the individual to continue building walls around them.


The Wrong Connotation of words in mental health care

It is the stigma around mental health that has normalized the use of words like “psycho”, “schizo”, “loner”, and many more. And, to break this cycle of generations passing the wrong method of treating mental health, all of us will have to collectively work towards it. Yes, the change cannot happen overnight. But, if each of us does our part, the change will come gradually.

the Importance of language in mental health care

As the present generation, a generation that knows how to give it back to society, a generation that takes no bullshit, a generation that has got a voice and an opinion, it becomes our responsibility to educate the people around us and especially our younger ones to be more mindful when talking about mental health, whether about self or to anybody else.

Words are the most powerful weapon. The way you use your words in a particular situation reflects your level of understanding. Hence, it is important that we use our voice and words in the right manner. The language of your partner also reflects the red flags in a relationship that you should spot early to protect yourself from any physical or emotional damage.

As a former student of linguistics, I know how language plays an important role in our persona. The choice of our language and the fact that we are adhering to “listen” to the person is more important than anything else. It is recently that I have begun to educate myself about mental health. I am fully aware that I have been wrong in the past while talking on this topic or making the wrong communication while talking to a mental health survivor.

All this, because nobody ever taught me how to handle a situation when a friend comes up and tells me, “I want to talk”. There have been instances when instead of listening to the other person I have unconsciously begun talking about myself. And, this is what most people (including me) take time to understand.

If you cannot help then the least can do is listen – which I now do. If I sense that the person is not his or her usual self, I try to listen to them patiently. Because, more often than not, people with mental health matters don’t need advice, they need ears. They want somebody to listen to them. And, I am glad I did that with a new virtual friend I made recently on LinkedIn.

She shared the entire story of her suffering and while I could relate to a lot of things, I chose to patiently listen to her. Venting your heart while you struggle and being that listening to them is all about mindfulness. I am learning this every day as I research more and more for my work.


While a lot of people might have the opinion that language isn’t important. My personal experience and my everyday increasing knowledge about mental health allow me to understand that the right choice of words is significant. Words, if used wrongly, can act as a barrier. But, when used wisely and mindfully can break the barrier of discrimination and the fear of judgment. This allows the person to be more vocal about their feelings and situations.

I hope this has been an addition to your knowledge from my side. I hope it has been helpful to you.

Happy Reading !!!

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Kajal Vats

    Words speak louder than the actions. So we better be careful about what we are saying. Everyone has different perceptions of every little word, even the frequency or pitch of voice can affect the mental health of a person. Proactive approach is far away for our society to follow but following a reactive approach would really be a great accomplishment as of now.

  2. Evita

    Mental health…destigmatizing it is still a long way! The language used for conversing around these issues should be taught at a very young age. I’ve heard so many people who would call mentally ill people “crazy” and many such names and fail to understand how this affects the individual. These issues do need great support! Thank you, Shweta for sharing your views and educating individuals toward such sensitive problems!😊

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