Monthly Media Watch: Politics, Language and Stigma

FEB. 26, 2016

By Bob Carolla

Politic Word BubblePerhaps 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.  


DEC, 19, 2016 06:09:25 AM
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That is exciting post and thank you for sharing. There are things here that I didn't think some time as of late. Because of cool such a position, to the point that is to a great degree carefully taken, we will talk a huge amount of colleagues about it.

APR, 30, 2016 02:31:36 AM
Cynthia Bourbeau
Cps HUD social security school's took my kids from me I HV LD n mental health issues so do my kids I need help getting them back I don't understand court papers to file I'm sorta homeless I lost everything

MAR, 10, 2016 11:09:59 AM
For an interesting perspective on how some members of the judiciary - specifically, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals - stereotype mentally ill persons, read Karon Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hospital, Inc., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 3104. The court found the mistaken/premature discharge of an un-medicated suicidal patient from a crisis center (actively planning his suicide) to be equivalent - in risk and potential harm - to releasing a patient (with an unknown physical condition) without his crutches. Moreover, the court stated that a patient - who had 3 pocket knives in a pouch which were not detected at pre-admission (probably homeless) - was a "self evident" danger to himself and others, even though there was not a scintilla of evidence that this poor man had a suicidal or homicidal ideation. In other words, he was dangerous, to the court, because he was in the crisis center. So much for breaking down stigmas...

MAR, 07, 2016 01:54:44 AM
Jon W
Please promptly hold Bernie Sanders feet to the fire for making a joke about increasing mental health
funding because of the craziness of the Republican race. Mental health funding needs stand on their own and are independent of stigma or party affiliation. I think the joke gives more dignity to the Republicans than it gives to patients and their families who already suffer enough.

FEB, 29, 2016 05:36:13 PM
Brenda Beltramo
I was discouraged to see the following article in the Washington Post last week:
It should have been a story about bipolar disorder and what it can do in the lives of even an Olympic athlete and medical doctor. Instead, it just mentions Debi Thomas' bipolar diagnosis in passing while voyeuristic-ally focusing on the conditions of her life today. I almost felt like I was reading an Enquirer article rather than The Washington Post. I think I'm not the only one who would agree that they missed the REAL story and also the opportunity to inform, enlighten and inspire readers about the needs of the mentally ill. I would hope that NAMI would respond to this article and/or the Post.

FEB, 26, 2016 02:33:03 PM
Sue F
Hi, there is a case in Bismarck ND this past month that showed many painful realities when a loved one suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. It showed the fear it causes for families, the difficulty to get services, the complexity when law enforcement is involved and most of all how much suffering an individual with this disease must endure.

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