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08th Oct 2016

It’s time to change the language we use to talk about mental health

It makes a big difference.

Alice Murray

Brought to you by LYONS Tea supporting Pieta House.

Language is important.

It’s how we talk, interpret, and make sense of the world around us. It has the power to paint something as positive, and the ability to make something appear negative.

With that in mind, it seems like we often don’t really stop to consider the effect our words have on those around us.

In the press, we live off language. It’s our way to communicate with the audience and tell stories to the world. But even on a simple person to person level how we speak about things can have a massive impact. Take for example mental health.

Over the past number of years, it seems like it has become more and more common to use mental health terminology to describe everyday situations or problems.

”Oh him, yeah he’s a complete psycho!” ”The weather today is practically schizophrenic.” Do any of these sound familiar?

It’s all too easy to let these terms slip into our vocabulary without thinking about where they come from.

They’ve been used so often that they’ve become integrated into, and accepted as part of our everyday language. The truth is that by using these phrases to describe everyday things, we’re trivializing mental health problems.

I’m not smugly preaching this from a pulpit of perfection. I have done it too. I’ve joked about having OCD when making sure all the plugs are switched off in my house (my very own pet peev). I’ve muttered under my breath about how depressing a certain social situation is. I’ve done it all without giving it a second thought.

But after having friends, relatives, and people close to me deal with their own mental health problems you start to realise that these words can hurt.

How would I feel if someone was making light of a problem that was keeping me awake at night? How would I feel knowing that my life-threatening depression is being used as the butt of a joke? How would I feel?

It might not seem so blasé then.

Of course lots of people will disagree. They might think that this is PC gone wild. ”Sure you can’t say anything anymore.” etc. and that’s understandable too. But when it comes to mental health, such a huge issue facing our society, why not do everything in our power to help those going through it? Why not take an extra second to think about the language we are putting out into the world and the impact that language might have on someone listening?

This is something that we simply can’t take lightly. This is something that we have to face up to.

It doesn’t take much to take a step back and think, ‘Could this potentially hurt someone’s feelings?’ or ‘How would I feel if I was going through that?’

Words are just words but sometimes they hurt more than we realise. Just stop and think.


LYONS Tea has been at the centre of conversations in Irish households for generations. Many a problem has been shared over a cup of their tea. That’s why LYONS is delighted to support Pieta House to raise awareness for the services they provide and to get the nation talking about mental health issues. Pieta House offers free help and support for people experiencing suicidal ideation, suicidal bereavement or engaging in self-harm.

To get involved in the conversation LYONS Tea with the support of Pieta House will host a #TimeToTalk event in association with and on October 10, for details of the event and to sign up click here.