As my co-worker says many times in his speech about his journey to wellness – “words hurt”.

I agree. Words more often than not have a far more harmful impact than getting into a physical altercation.

However, I also believe that words hurt because of the context in a situation. If a person says, “you’re a crazy woman” rather than, “wow, that’s crazy how different we are”, I would be more likely to physically altercate them. (Well, in my world it would mean turning multiple shades of red and seething internally.)

The word “crazy” does not have to be banned from our language just because people have misused it. Sometimes “crazy” sums things up quite succinctly. “You have heard of my hometown too – that’s crazy!” (It really IS crazy – Dunnville is like a smudge on the map.)

It’s interesting to work at a psychiatric hospital from both the perspective of a mental health worker and a past patient.

As a mental health worker I see the staff trying to incorporate recovery oriented language into all of their practices and it’s great but almost kind of humorous. (Sorry, my work friends.) Their look of, “oh my gosh, did I just say that in front of PEER SUPPORT” (that’s the only time our name is in caps!) is priceless. Now, it depends on the situation but for the most part, I don’t judge unless it’s something I would never have thought. Which is difficult to match because I am almost always thinking without my filter on, so a lot of stuff just slides by until I realize it a few hours later.

As a past patient, I agree that words can stigmatize.

Long story short, I made the WORST mistake and asked two people if they were patients. I say WORST because their reaction was like it really was the worst possibility.

“Do we LOOK like patients?”

I did what I usually do when conflict arises: turn a million shades of red, stammer a couple of times, apologize and walk away.

But the truth is that of course they looked like patients! Patients are human too!

Morals of my story:

1. Using phrases like “it’s driving me nuts” are not going to hurt anyone.

2. Using phrases like “that patient has less intelligence than a potted plant” (real life situation!) are going to make me GO nuts ON you.

3. Using phrases like “we can’t talk about it like that” in regards to everything mental health related is just annoying.

I agree we should be careful of our language but sometimes people are just word police bullies! Get over yourself!

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.