Words Do Matter
December 21, 2011, 4:07 pm
Filed under: Mind, News

Pennsylvania is adopting a new bill “Words Do Matter” that would eliminate use of the word “retardation” from state statutes on mental disabilities.

Senate Bill 458, spearheaded by State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, amends the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act of 1966, renaming it the Mental Health and Intellectual Disability Act.

For Pennsylvania mental health law this is a great achievement, bringing to light the importance of words and the influence they have not only on the individual with diagnosis, but also on the family of the individual. The words we choose to speak with clients and family carry much weight.

I can imagine people responding to the bill hatefully, railing against it as just another label in an overly “politically correct” society.  To this I would say that the term “retardation” is dehumanizing and unnecessary to use. We must consider how our words are able to bolster dignity in individuals with diagnosis.

This article is one example of how the “r” word is used in derogatory ways. Such loaded assaults should have no connection to mental health law that works to instill good health and dignity to individuals and families seeking services.

Words really do matter.


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