Certain language can cause offense and may be inaccurate when used in news stories that involve someone with a mental health problem. Here are the most common, as well as some alternative suggestions.

Avoid using:

  • ‘a psycho’ or ‘a schizo’
  • ‘a schizophrenic’ or ‘a depressive’
  • ‘lunatic’ ‘nutter’ 'unhinged' 'maniac' 'mad'
  • ‘the mentally ill’, ‘a person suffering from’ ‘a sufferer’, a ‘victim’ or ‘the afflicted’
  • 'prisoners’ or ‘inmates’ (in a psychiatric hospital)
  • ‘released’ (from a hospital)
  • 'happy pills'

Instead try: 

  • ‘a person who has experienced psychosis’ or 'a person who has schizophrenia'
  • someone who ‘has a diagnosis of’ is ‘currently experiencing' or ‘is being treated for…
  • ‘a person with a mental health problem’
  • ‘mental health patients’ or ‘people with mental health problems’
  • ‘patients’, ‘service users’ or clients
  • ‘discharged’
  • ‘antidepressants', 'medication' or 'prescription drugs'

Other common mistakes

  • 'schizophrenic’ or 'bipolar' should not be used to mean ‘two minds’ or a ‘split personality’
  • somebody who is angry is not ‘psychotic’
  • a person who is down or unhappy is not the same as someone experiencing clinical depression

Read this blog from one mental health professional who explains why he decided to challenge the BBC over its use of language. 

If you want to read more about any particular mental health condition have a look at the information from Mind or Rethink Mental Illness