May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience.
Hospitals and health systems play an important role in providing behavioral health care and helping patients find resources available in their community. Hospitals create unique partnerships to address behavioral health issues in non-traditional ways. Many of our members are leading innovations in the way behavioral health disorders are identified and treated—through the integration of physical and behavioral health services, changes in their emergency departments and inpatient and outpatient settings, and via community partnerships. These strategies improve the overall value of health care and can lead to improvements in patient outcomes, quality of care and total costs.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) has a long-standing commitment to support these efforts and advocate on issues related to behavioral health. AHA supports the integration of behavioral and physical health and helps hospitals play a key role in establishing partnerships to ensure access to a full continuum of behavioral health care.
Words can transmit stigma. Studies have shown that people with psychiatric and/or substance use disorders often feel judged, outside and inside the health care system. This can lead them to avoid, delay or stop seeking treatment. The way we talk about people with a behavioral disorder can change lives – in either a positive or negative manner.
The AHA, together with behavioral health and language experts from member hospitals and partner organizations, will release a series of downloadable posters to help your employees adopt patient-centered, respectful language. Please consider downloading, printing and sharing each poster with your team members and encourage them to use this language both in front of patients and when talking to colleagues.
Talking to and about an individual with a substance use disorder means seeing them as a person battling a severe illness. Our words reflect our thinking and make a profound difference in the outcome of care. Let’s choose to inspire and support our patients by reducing stigmatizing language.