Insults about mental health issues are becoming more commonplace, with words like “retard”, “weirdo” and “psycho” heard in everyday language, a report claims
It suggests that more than four in five (81%) young people say they have heard harmful language and negative stereotypes used about people experiencing mental health difficulties.
More than two fifths (44%) of those questioned said they had heard these types of insults at least weekly.
The YMCA’s findings, published on World Mental Health Day, are based on two polls, one of around 1,000 16 to 24-year-olds and the other of around 2,000 11-24-year-olds.
The report says: “Insults around mental health have become commonplace in society as words like ‘retard’, ‘mental’, ‘weirdo’, ‘psycho’, and ‘crazy’ infiltrate everyday language.”
More than three quarters of young people (79%) said they have heard “retard” used negatively in relation to young people experiencing mental health difficulties, while 78% have heard “mental”, 71% have heard “weirdo” and 70% have heard “psycho”, it found.
The survey also found that youngsters were most likely to hear this type of language on social media (according to 60% of those questioned), followed by school or college and in public areas.
Denise Hatton, chief executive for YMCA England & Wales, said: “Our research has shown that stereotypes and negative language surrounding mental health are so ingrained into our everyday language it makes it almost impossible to tackle stigma if we don’t change the way we talk about people experiencing mental health difficulties.
“While everyone knows how damaging insults can be, it’s the more subtle elements of how we talk about the issue that really discourages young people from speaking out.
“Most of us use words unintentionally, not realising the damaging consequences of our comments.
“We need to start challenging people on the way they talk and also challenge ourselves.
“Only by being accountable for our own actions can we really drive change, and the #IAMWHOLE campaign has many resources available to help everyone better understand mental health and tackle stigma one word at the time.”
In a separate poll of more than 17,000 university students conducted by Dig-In, a student brand-engagement company, 69% said they have suffered with worry or anxiety.
Also in the poll, 32% said they had endured a serious personal, emotional, behavioural or mental health problem for which they felt they needed professional help.