The Power of One


What can one person do?

Effective advocacy for men, women and children needing treatment for mental illness begins with one person. You. A new world of possibilities and a brighter attitude about the challenges you face open up when you decide to take direct action and become a force to be reckoned with instead of a victim of circumstance. But where do you start?


Make yourself aware of stigmatizing language—often implicit—that diminishes people who experience mental illness. People must not be defined by their disease. They should never be labeled by their limitations. Learn to use “people first” language. A young women seeking treatment for schizophrenia is not “a schizophrenic.” She is a daughter, a friend, has a career, may be a mother, has talents and interests and dreams like anyone else—and she has a treatable mental illness. Discipline yourself to treat people with the dignity to which they are entitled, and choose words and phrases that put people first, and the disability second.


Become a messenger of recovery, making others aware that we now have well-established and effective roads to recovery. Make other people aware of the importance of “people first” language. Hold news media organizations accountable for the words they use when they broadcast language that includes harmful stereotypes about those with mental illness. It is their responsibility to get it right, and our right to be respected.


Mental health care services are funded, administered and monitored by dozens of organizations subject to public scrutiny and generally responsive to well-presented stories and clear arguments asking for specific action. At the grassroots level, these include:

Legislative Committees
Advisory Committees
RFP Review Committees
County Governments
Health Care Providers
Behavioral Health Coalitions
Ad Hoc Committees
Task Forces
Focus Groups
Support Groups
Block Grant Applications
Town Halls
Community & Family Satisfaction Teams
Community Service Providers
Stakeholders Advisory Committees


Can one person change the world? We believe that making simple changes, such as the words you use, is a great place to start. Do you use hurtful language, even unconsciously, that stigmatizes others? If you are using any of the words below, especially in reference to people, eliminate them from your vocabulary. Words hurt—and words matter.

• Mentally ill
• Emotionally disturbed
• Insane
• Crazy
• Odd
• Abnormal
• Psycho
• Maniac
• Lunatic
• Looney
• Loopy
• Wacko
• Cuckoo
• Mental
• Deranged
• Mad
• Out of it
• Slow
• Nuts
• Disturbed
• Demented
• Screw Loose
• Brain dead
• High or low functioning
• Delusional
• Case
• Decompensate
• Issues
• Schizophrenic

Join NAMI today

Join NAMI to increase the power of your own voice in advocating fairness in the treatment of people who have mental illness and in encouraging positive policy reform.

For $35 a year—about 10 cents a day—an individual can become a NAMI member on the national, state and regional level.

Copyright © 2017 NAMI All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy | Site Map
NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania 105 Braunlich Drive, Suite 200, Pittsburgh, PA 15237 | (412) 366-3788 | 1 (888) 264-7972