Inclusive Language

anguage for mental health allies at work.

Don’t say: “I have to talk to you about your attitude.”
Say: “You don’t seem to be yourself lately. Would you like to talk about it? I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

Don’t say: “You seem to be falling behind on your work. Why can’t you keep up?”
Say: “I know that work can sometimes be challenging. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Don’t say: “Cheer up.” Never use platitudes.
Say: “I hope you feel a little better tomorrow.”

Don’t say: “I think you need to have some time off.”
Say: “You’re a valuable member of our team. We need you, but you can take time off if it would help. We can give you part-time work, you can work from home, and you can stay connected with your colleagues.” Of course, adapt this language to whatever your company policies allow.

Don’t say: “You are bipolar.”
Say: “You are a person with bipolar disorder.” Always use person-first language — you would never say “You are cancer.”

Don’t say: “I understand what you’re going through” unless you have mental illness. Even if you do, be sensitive, as each person experiences mental illness differently.
Say: “I don’t know what you’re going through, but I would like to help you. Is there any way that I can?”

Don’t say: “You don’t seem to be getting better.”
Say: “Mental illness can be managed and treated; sometimes it just takes finding the right care team and plan. I will be here to support you. You can count on me.”

Don’t say: “Maybe you should try _____ and ______.” Unsolicited advice is usually not welcomed.
Say: “I heard ____ can be helpful or has helped me in the past. Would you like to look into it together?”

Don’t say: “You’ll figure this out. You don’t need any help. You’re not weak.”
Say: “I think it’s brave that you recognize that you are struggling and willing to get help.”

Don’t say: “You have to see a doctor.”
Say: “I wonder if a doctor might be able to help you. Our mental health handbook provides referrals, or you can reach out to your insurance company for help. Or maybe a therapist could be useful to you.”

Don’t say: “You need to focus on getting better.”
Say: “We can get through this together. We are here for you.”

Content credits: HBR
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