The Anti-Stigma Thesaurus: Rewriting the Language of Mental Health

The Anti-Stigma Thesaurus: Rewriting the Language of Mental Health

Despite how the nursery rhyme goes, words can hurt. They can also be used to reinforce mental health stigma, particularly in crime fiction. Words are powerful - and "with great power comes great responsibility". The longevity and influence of words can be epitomised in that one quotation, first used centuries ago and popularised by a comic book adaptation. Words are the building blocks of the writer's craft. They are our weapons and our tools. We can fuss for hours over the right choice of word to fit a sentence, a tone, a character. When it comes to fighting mental health stigma, we need to choose our weapons carefully. The last time I wrote about this, I merely complained that writers should do better. This time, I'm going to do better. The following words and phrases are all in common usage but have the potential to be harmful to people with mental health problems and reinforce stigma about them. I have here presented alternatives that...
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Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

Every year, I write a post about my writing and personal progress over the past twelve months and look forward to next year's goals and challenges. For this New Year's Day, I'm going to look at some awesome things that happened in 2014 and pair them up with where I'm taking them in 2015. In 2014, I became a published author I can't shout about this enough, because it fills me with a giddy joy that I've longed for since I was a child. It's been a very steep learning curve, but the process of taking a raw manuscript and making it into a novel with the help of my fantastic editor Deb Nemeth and the rest of the Carina Press team has had such a profound influence on my writing. And then seeing my books out in the world, receiving praise and reviews - even the gut-wrenching negative ones - has been amazing. People have read my words! They paid money to...
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Sticks and Stones: Mental Health Stigma and Crime Fiction

Crime fiction is entertainment. Writers' primary goal is to entertain. But what is the impact of the written word on the most vulnerable people in society? Does crime fiction contribute to mental health stigma? What is stigma? The term stigma refers to the negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination directed towards a group - in this case, people with mental health problems. For example, the stereotype "schizophrenics are psycho killers" may lead to attitudes like "all mental patients should be locked up" and "I don't want a nutter around my children" and actions like avoiding people with mental health problems, opposing mental health facilities in their neighbourhoods, and beating a man to death. Stigma is not just about public attitudes to mental health. People with mental health problems can direct these negative attitudes towards themselves - self-stigma: "It's my fault I'm depressed - I'm not strong enough to cope." There is also institutional or structural stigma, where organisations discriminate against individuals, such as quietly...
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INTERVIEW: Lucy V Hay on The Decision: Lizzie’s Story

Lucy V Hay talks teen pregnancy, stigma and transmedia Lucy V Hay (aka the infamous script guru Bang2write) took time out of her busy schedule to share some insight into writing her new book THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY, the story of a pregnant teen's many possible futures. What inspired you to write THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY? Personal experience and frustration. I always wanted to write something about being a teen Mum, because I would look around and see no one like me on television, or movies. It's one area of characterisation where there is very little variety beyond two dimensional stereotypes. Always, teen Mums are depicted as mouthy, ill-educated, scroungers - getting pregnant for benefits, or because they're too "stupid" to use contraception. If we're clever, we're usually trying to trap a (usually much older) man, who can't resist the little Lolita. I made many attempts to write something different before THE DECISION: LIZZIE'S STORY - it was my agent, Julian Friedmann who...
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