Lost for words: how the language we use stigmatises and disempowers service users

Psychiatric, elitist discourse dominates mental health services

Psychiatric, elitist discourse dominates mental health services

Our choice of language expresses something of how we interpret the world. It points to inner thoughts, attitudes and beliefs. Verbalising these further reinforces them. It is important then to attend to language use and its consequences.

Yet how often do we stop to consider the language we use as mental health nurses, its effect on our practice and therapeutic relationships? And who can blame us for not doing so, since the system leaves little room for critical thinking of this kind?

Unique language

Psychiatry is a way of interpreting the human condition. Its unique language of mental illness, disorder and symptomatology lends unfamiliar names to emotional, psychological and life experiences.

The language is categorical. It assists society to demarcate the boundaries of ‘normality’, what is and is not acceptable, and