Using the word ‘problem’ when talking about mental health

When reviewing Bucks Mind’s strategy as part of a board meeting we questioned the phrase ‘mental health problems’ in our vision of “We won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets both support and respect.”

The phrase comes from Mind. Their proposition is “We’re here to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone”. It makes sense that a mental health charity would frame poor mental health as a “problem” so they can be framed as being part of the solution.

But is calling it a problem negative, is it part of the stigma? Should we use phrases like ‘poor mental health’, ‘mental health issues’, or ‘illness’?

Often, having poor mental health is a problem for the person experiencing it, but as disability campaigners have often said that it is society that ‘disables’ people and prevents them from taking an active role in society, not that they have a physical limitation. Perhaps mental health is the same.