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New Language Guide Supported by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation

  • December 21, 2021

Promotes Positive, Inclusive Conversations Around Mental Health

Well Beings, a multi-year campaign from public media to address the critical health needs in America, has created the Mental Health Language Guide to help everyone more successfully find the right words when having conversations about mental health. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) Foundation is a supporter of the Well Beings initiative and a contributor to the development of the guide.

The guide is intended to address stigma around mental illness and equip users with person-first language and a better understanding of how to discuss mental health concerns with youth.

“Words matter. Just having the right words can help start a positive conversation about mental health and lead to action,” said Rawle Andrews Jr., Esq., executive director of the APA Foundation. “The APA Foundation is all about turning up the volume and the quality of the discourse on mental health, whether it’s happening where we live, work, worship, learn or play. Co-led by our very own, Christopher Chun-Seeley, we’re pleased to have aided in the guide’s development and we’re hoping this becomes a widely shared resource for anyone talking about mental health: whether it’s in a one-on-one conversation or it’s something they’re sharing around the world.”

The guide overviews how to talk about mental health, such as the use of person-first language that places focus on the individual, instead of defining a person by their illness. For example, instead of “He is a schizophrenic,” the suggested language is “He lives with schizophrenia.” It includes guidance on language that is inclusive of people with disabilities and people who are LGBTQIA+, communities of color, and a glossary of important terms on mental health and identity.

The language guide is available at and will be distributed as part of the educational outreach for Well Beings. Well Beings offers youth-focused resources, original broadcast and digital content, and local events organized by PBS member stations around the country.

The guide was written by Alita McCalmon, senior manager of education and national programming at WETA, with the input of Christopher Chun-Seeley, program director for school and justice initiatives at the APA Foundation, and Lauren Carson, executive director at Black Girls Smile, a nonprofit organization that empowers the mental well-being of young Black girls. It includes original illustrations by Kevin “Earleybird” Earley, a mental health advocate who has used his experiences with mental health to help create impactful art and music.

American Psychiatric Association Foundation

The American Psychiatric Association Foundation is the philanthropic and educational arm of APA. The APA Foundation promotes awareness of mental illnesses and the effectiveness of treatment, the importance of early intervention, access to care, and the need for high-quality services and treatment through a combination of public and professional education, research, research training, grants, and awards.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA's vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit

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