Your Language Matters


The words you use matter. You can better reach youth, break down negative stereotypes and give teens hope by choosing words that are more relatable and promote understanding. This simple but caring approach may help youth feel more comfortable and willing to talk openly about mental health and to reach out for support early.

Your presentation will resonate more effectively and honestly by choosing the best words for your audience. Included here are suggested words and phrases to help teens be more open and receptive to your message. It only takes one person to make a difference. Lead by example. Be that person.

Tips for Talking to Youth

Instead of Saying

Brain Disorder or Brain Disease

Consider Saying

Mental Health Condition

Instead of Saying

My daughter is bipolar

Consider Saying

My daughter has bipolar disorder

Instead of Saying

Suffers from, afflicted with or mentally ill

Consider Saying

Lives with, has or experiences

Instead of Saying

Mental Illness

Consider Saying

Mental Health

Instead of Saying

Consumer, client or patient

Consider Saying

Person with a mental health condition

A person is not their mental health condition. You wouldn’t say someone “is cancer,” so we wouldn’t say someone “is bipolar.” Use words like “has,” “lives with” or “experiences” instead.

Talk about mental health in a way that encourages hope and empowers youth. Words like “brain disorder/disease,” “mentally ill” and “suffers from” can be intimidating to teens and give the illness the power.


Tips for Talking About Suicide

Instead of Saying

Failed suicide or unsuccessful attempt

Consider Saying

Suicide attempt/ attempted suicide

Instead of Saying

Committed suicide

Consider Saying

Took their own life

Instead of Saying

Successful or completed suicide

Consider Saying

Died by suicide/ suicide death

Instead of Saying

Chose to kill him/herself

Consider Saying

Died as the result of self-inflicted injury


When talking about suicide, consider other meanings your words may have. For example, “committed suicide” implies that suicide is a crime. You can help eliminate the misunderstanding and stigma that prevent people from speaking up and getting support by choosing words that are more clear and neutral. Source: http://www.nami.org

Carter Center Resource Guide on Behavioral Health.


The Carter Center has put together and excellent resource guide on behavioral health. Click the button below to download a copy for yourself.


  Download Resource Guide