Fountain House Asks The New York Times to Watch Its Language

Posted on August 28, 2014

If you live with a mental health condition, or you know and love someone who does, you understand that words matter. When you define a person by their diagnosis, that person goes from being a brother, a writer, a sister, or a painter to being merely “the mentally ill.”


It’s hurtful. This dangerous habit creates a stigma against people living with mental illness. Our members have a wonderful idea about how to use the power of words to fight this stigma—starting with our hometown paper, The New York Times.

Newspapers, even ones we love as much as the Times, often refer to people by outdated phrases such as “the mentally ill” and “schizophrenics.” Every time these careless labels are used, this language denies our human dignity and adds to the many challenges that people with mental illness already face.

That’s why we need your help. We’ve drafted an open letter to The New York Times, asking them to partner with us to overcome the stigma by adopting “person first” language when writing about mental illness.

Click here to read our letter and add your name.

If we can show The New York Times that a groundswell of their loyal readers support this policy, then we could replace thoughtless, blanket labels like “the mentally ill” with more respectful language like, “a person living with bipolar disorder” or “a person with schizophrenia.” Better still, articles could include a specific, accurate mental health diagnosis only when it is relevant to the story.

Together, we can rally to make this happen.

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