Monthly Media Watch: Politics, Language and Stigma
Perhaps one bright spot in February—believe it or not—is that mental health has factored at least to some degree in the ongoing presidential campaigns.
NAMI is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates, but we do encourage everyone to learn the positions of candidates, at all levels, on mental health issues—or ask candidates in public forums. Mental illness does not discriminate; it affects Republicans and Democrats alike.
With Super Tuesday approaching, NBC News reported key statements by the Republican and Democratic candidates on mental health. In some cases, this has led to emotional moments, such as a Ohio Governor John Kasich’s response to a woman who lost five family members to suicide. Meanwhile, The Washington Post used Donald Trump’s rhetoric to illustrate the broader problem of language and stigma in American culture—which included analysis by NAMI on how stigma undermines recovery.
Language, in fact, has been a hot topic in the news. One widely-reported article in the British Medical Journal argued that schizophrenia does not exist because it’s a very inaccurate term. Meanwhile, NAMI’s medical director, Ken Duckworth, M.D., was the co-author of an article published in Slate about the stigmatizing abuse of the word in social media. The Week’s U.S. edition went even farther with an essay on 10 commonly abused psychology words and what they really mean. In addition to schizophrenia, the list includes insane, psychotic and manic depressive.
In months ahead, listen carefully to what every candidates says about mental health issues—including the words they use. Language matters, as well as candidates' stands on policy issues. If they aren’t saying anything, then that says something too. If so, we will all need to ask.