Inclusive Mental Health Language: A Guide

Inclusive Mental Health Language: A Guide


The use of inclusive language is crucial in creating a safe and welcoming space, especially in the field of mental health. At its essence, mental health concerns are universal and affect individuals of all backgrounds, races, and genders. In recent years, the psychological community has realized the need to be more inclusive in using terminologies that respect diversity and de-stigmatize mental health challenges. In this guide, we’ll talk about the importance of inclusive language in mental health and define some commonly used terms.


1. Why Inclusive Language is Important in Mental Health?

Inclusive language in mental health is critical because language creates an environment that can either foster or hinder recovery. Using stigmatizing terms while talking about mental health issues can create a negative or shameful association with the diagnosis, which hinders effective treatment outcomes. Additionally, using exclusive language can deter individuals from seeking help when they are struggling, which perpetuates feelings of isolation and stigma. Inclusive language sends a message that mental health issues are legitimate and significant and that everyone has the right to receive support and access treatment.

2. Commonly Used Terms

Below are some inclusive terms that you may come across in the mental health space:

  • Person-First Language
    This means referring to someone as a person before their diagnosis. For instance, it is better to say 'John has diabetes' rather than 'John is diabetic.'
  • Gender-Neutral Language
    This type of language is inclusive of all genders and is respectful of a person's chosen gender identity.
  • Culturally Sensitive Language
    It means respecting an individual's cultural background and the unique challenges that they might face based on their ethnicity, race, or religion.

3. Avoiding Stigmatizing Language

Certain words and phrases can be stigmatizing when used to describe mental health issues such as 'crazy,' 'psycho,' 'maniac,' 'lunatic,' etc. Additionally, defining a person's identity based on their mental health diagnosis can also be harmful, such as calling someone a 'bipolar person.'

4. The Impact of Inclusive Language on Treatment Outcomes

The use of inclusive language in mental health not only creates a safe and welcoming environment for individuals seeking help but can also have an impact on their treatment outcomes. Inclusive language assists with building trust with therapists and reducing stigma, which can enable individuals to be more forthcoming about their experiences and be more receptive to receiving treatment. Inclusive language can also be a factor in a patient's success in outpatient treatment and can assist with continued recovery success after inpatient treatment.



Inclusive language is essential in the mental health field, as it fosters a safe and welcoming space that leads to better treatment outcomes. Using language that is respectful, culturally sensitive and inclusive of all genders and identities is crucial. By practicing inclusive language in mental health, we can create environments where individuals feel heard, understood, and empowered to work on their mental health challenges. If you need counseling in Richmond, VA, please contact Nadia Dhillon Counseling today to schedule an appointment.

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