Writing about mental health
Mind is here to make the complex and sensitive area of mental health easier for people to understand and to talk about. We want people to feel that they can interact with us without judgement.
This means communicating carefully in a way that allows anyone with a mental health problem and the people around them to benefit from the information and support we provide.
Follow this guidance to make sure your content is appropriate and inclusive, and reflects the different experiences people may have.
Mind is not a medical charity. Our concern is with people, not illness. So, while the diagnoses of mental health problems, and possible treatments are important, our primary concern is the impact of these on the people affected.
We focus on people feeling empowered to make informed choices, so that they feel in control of their mental health and able to live their lives to the full. Similarly, our interest in services is built on how they can help individuals recover or live with their mental health problem.
So remember: when you're writing, keep the person who's reading at front of your mind and the heart of your copy.
Defining mental health problems
At Mind we talk about mental health problems in the following way:
We all have times when we struggle with our mental health. When these difficult experiences or feelings go on for a long time and affect our ability to enjoy and live our lives in the way we want to, this is a mental health problem. You might receive a specific diagnosis from your doctor, or just feel more generally that you are experiencing poor mental health.
We want people to know that they can turn to us whenever they need to. This means creating spaces where people can come for a conversation in their own language. Our research tells us that people prefer to be spoken to using language that matches their own.
For example, people have told us that they don't understand the term "mental distress". In fact, they find it confusing. They prefer us to talk about "mental health" or "mental health problems". And while it would be correct to describe someone as "diagnosed with depression" or "experiencing feelings of sadness'" they are more likely say that they are "feeling really down" or "unable to cope".
Keep it simple
Providing content written in plain language is even more important when people come to us in times of distress. So it's essential to make your writing as easy to understand as possible. Avoid jargon, abbreviations and acronyms, and clinical language wherever you can, and particularly for non-specialist audiences. If it is ever necessary to include jargon in your copy, make sure you clarify what it means.
Read more about how to write in plain language in writing for the web.
Us, not them
Mental health problems can affect anyone. We don't distance ourselves from people with mental health problems. Avoid phrases such as "people with mental health problems", use “those of us with mental health problems”, "anyone with mental health problems" or "everyone with mental health problems".
See our guidance on writing about people for more tips on writing inclusive content.
Everybody deserves respect. People with mental health problems are no exception. This is a core part of Mind's vision, so it's important that we always speak respectfully to and about our users. We don't patronise them, or portray them as helpless. We're there to empower anyone with a mental health problem by supporting them to take control.
Causes of mental health problems
When talking about general causes of mental health problems we do the following:
- List physical factors. This includes theories around genetics and any medical, physiological or pharmacological causes, as well as social factors.
- You can include a section called "What are the causes of XX?", but be clear about the difference between a cause (a directly identified cause) and a risk factor or group at risk (a situation or group that means you are more at risk of developing a problem). And make sure this distinction is used correctly.
- Check that what we say about the causes of mental health problems is consistent with our FAQ sheet. Always check this resource before writing.
Writing about mental health problems in detail
If you need to write about mental health in detail, such as:
- causes of mental health problems
- diagnoses and symptoms