Watch those words

By Shirley Oczkewicz | Jul 08, 2013


In recent issues of The Beacon I’ve noticed that two columnists used words that diminish members of our society.   I doubt that their intention was to disrespect, but words such as “retarded” or “... like a crazy person” are common parlance yet stigmatizing words for those with brain disorders.

The media has a role to play in changing this, and the goal needs to be eliminating language, which may be derogatory toward people with a mental inadequacy or illness.  Such disrespectful word usage contributes to the stigma they endure, and it is this stigma, which keeps many from getting the help they need.

For this reason I'm including two quotes from the latest Associated Press Style Manual regarding inappropriate media practices:

“Do not use derogatory terms, such as insane, crazy/crazed, nuts or deranged, unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story.

Avoid using mental health terms to describe non-health issues. Don’t say that an awards show, for example, was schizophrenic.”

Thus I wish to alert you and your readers that using softer, more humane language may lead to subtle but important changes.

Compassionate word usage, even with humor, can promote sensitivity instead of stigma, so that those with behavioral issues related to brain disorders may seek and accept help as readily as those with any other biological illness.


Shirley Oczkewicz


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