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Reframing Language Guide


Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a medical problem, just like heart disease or diabetes. Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities - and they are often accompanied by substance use. It's critical that we talk about these challenges and that we do so in the right way. The terms we use to describe mental illness matter. We have all heard derogatory terms used to describe someone who has a mental illness. Here are a few to jog your memory: Cuckoo; Mad as a hatter; Screwy – having a screw loose; Bananas; Loopy; Crackers; Wacko (whacko); Loony; Nuts; Freak; Crazy; Weirdo. Can you imagine mocking someone with an illness such as cancer or heart disease? Here's how we can do better.


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Funding for this initiative was made possible by grant no. 1H79TI083022 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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