4 Everyday Phrases You’re Using That Are Seriously Triggering for Those Struggling With Their Mental Health

We are living in a time of change. Freedom of speech is more prevalent than ever, which has led to two major changes. Primarily, people have become more comfortable talking about their struggles to an open audience, which is beneficial in reducing stigma. However, increased freedom of speech also allows anyone to use and spread any kind of language, even if it may be offensive. It’s time we start talking about the effects of these 4 phrases, used by countless individuals every day.

But first, perhaps letting you know more about myself will help you understand why I’m sharing this information. I had the privilege of growing up in a family where it was okay to talk about our mental health; each time my sister and I faced mental health struggles, our parents encouraged us to talk about it. Also, since my mom’s career entirely revolves around mental health, we openly discussed topics such as anxiety, depression, and suicide. But as I grew up, I realized that lots of families prefer to brush these topics under the rug and therefore don’t know as much about mental illness.

It wasn’t until high school that I started noticing some of my friends and acquaintances regularly using phrases that, quite honestly, rubbed me the wrong way. I’m here to tell you why some of the words you’re using can be offensive, especially to those who have struggled with their mental health in the past. 



  1. 1. “I’m gonna have a mental breakdown.”

    This is the phrase that provoked me to write this article. I saw one of my favourite online creators post a picture of a new haircut with the caption, “I was having a mental breakdown so I cut bangs. Who likes?” And as great as it is to see creators sharing their mental health journeys online, this was clearly not an example of that; instead, it seemed to me like a clickbait caption used to get online attention. And that’s not right. 

    In reality, a mental breakdown is not just as simple as making an impulse decision to cut bangs. They are emotionally straining and brutal. And undermining the impact of a breakdown by saying you’re having one when you are clearly not can come across as you saying, “Mental health struggles are just a joke.” Instead, try something like “I’m afraid of X happening,” or “I’ll be really upset.”  

  2. 2. “If X happens, I’m gonna kill myself.”

    Listen: I get that you’re stressed or worried. But this is not the way to express those feelings. Suicide is a big deal, and just like the previous example, we don’t want to undermine the seriousness of suicide — which is exactly what you’re doing when you say this.

    Because here’s the truth: there’s a difference between being upset over a relatively minor inconvenience, like a bad grade on a test, and feeling suicidal. This is a pointless exaggeration that makes light of a serious issue. So, instead, if you’re upset about an event that happens and feel the need to make a little complaint, try using the words “annoying” or “upsetting” instead.  

  3. 3. “What, are you ret**ded?”

    I am honestly shocked by the amount of people who still use this word. If nobody has told you this before, let me be the first: it’s a slur. It’s an absolutely awful thing to say, as it essentially labels those with mental disabilities as stupid and incapable. It actually stems from the term “mental retardation,” which is an actual mental disorder. Doesn’t it feel wrong to you to jokingly refer to something as a serious mental disorder? There are so many other words you can use that are a) not insensitive or offensive, and b) more relatable to how you are probably feeling.

    Please, I urge you to remove this word from your vocabulary. Be on the right side of history here, which means being respectful.  

  4. 4. “They’re so psycho.”

    First of all, enough of the name-calling. In case you don’t know, “psycho” is a short-form for psychopath or psychosis; it goes without saying that these are not things to be joking or exaggerating about. It’s not a name to be throwing around; I get that you don’t agree with someone’s actions, but by no means should this translate to labelling them with a mental disorder.  

I’ll leave you with this thought: remember, don’t beat yourself up for saying something offensive once; we’re all human and we all make mistakes. The important thing to do now is educate yourself on why your words can be offensive and hurtful to others. If we all can just do this, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses can begin to decrease.