Language Matters

We challenge you to think about the words we may use like “crazy” or “insane” and how they can be hurtful to a person with a diagnosable illness or disability. These words can leave a person feeling rejected or alone, and perpetuate mental health stigma.

We encourage you to review the guidelines for Non-Handicapping Language from the American Psychological Association. This resource offers an enriching list of definitions, examples and the following basic principles for non-handicapping language:

  1. Put people first, not their disability
  2. Do not label people by their disability
  3. Do not label persons with disabilities as patients or invalids
  4. Do not overextend the severity of a disability
  5. Use emotionally neutral expressions
  6. Emphasize abilities, not limitations
  7. Avoid offensive expression
  8. Focus on the right and capacity of people with disabilities to express their own goals and preferences and to exercise control over their own services and supports
  9. See people with disabilities as a resource and as contributing community members, not as a burden or problem.

The best way to know how to refer to another person is to ask them. Every person is unique – so be respectful, do not make assumptions or label someone based on a certain disability or diagnosis.

We hope this page was helpful for you and we take your feedback seriously. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email us at