TA Coalition Webinar: Speak Up: Person-Centered Language Drives Equity for Individuals with Mental Health and Substance Use Challenges

A SAMHSA sponsored webinar presented by the National Federation of Families took place Thursday. May 9, 2024 from 1:30-3:00pm Eastern Time titled Speak Up: Person-Centered Language Drives Equity for Individuals with Mental Health and Substance Use Challenges 

Description: Choosing the right words when talking about mental health and substance use issues, as well as the people facing them, is crucial! Our language can influence our beliefs and attitudes, which, in turn, affect our behavior and societal norms. Ultimately, this can pave the way for policy changes that promote equity.

Even though person-centered language has been a key focus in the field of behavioral health for more than a decade, we don't always grasp the subtle reasons behind why certain words and phrases can hurt the feelings of individuals dealing with serious mental illness or emotional disturbances and hinder our progress towards embracing mental health and substance use challenges.

Join us to hear panelists with lived experience discuss the importance of moving from mental health and substance use awareness to acceptance, in part through changing the language we use to talk about behavioral health challenges. Seth Kahan, Founder and CEO of Visionary Leadership spoke about the three dimensions of stigma, which offer a deeper understanding of how to combat stigma where it still exists. As we begin to better understand the complexities of stigma, we can put more effort into dismantling the prejudice and discrimination that result from stigma. 

National Disability Rights Network’s Protection & Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council members Faith Goehring and Dr. Zipporah Levi-Shackleford, who is also a sibling to a brother with and the mother of children with mental health challenges, spoke about the differences in their experiences when others use person-centered language versus when someone uses demeaning and damaging language. They will provide some examples of preferred terms to use when speaking about or to someone with lived experience.

Executive Director of the Federation of Families of Central Florida and mother of a child with mental health challenges Muriel Jones left us with inspiration as she discussed the importance of using the language of “mental health acceptance” to further equity for those with lived experience. We have been making people aware of mental health challenges for decades. It’s time to demand attitude and policy shifts that accept people with mental health and substance use challenges and their families to work towards equity.


Seth Kahan - a sought-after business strategy specialist, respected thought leader, and convener on Grand Challenges. In the association world, he drives catalytic change, helping association leaders to innovate and retool for today’s disruptive and fast-moving environment. 

Raquel Rosa - Community Relations Specialist, National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN) 

Zipporah Levi-Shackleford, EdD - Founder of and the Behavior & Education Consultant for Creative Approach Development Center in Richmond, VA.

Muriel Jones Banks - Executive Director of Federation of Families of Central Florida, Inc., providing true lived experience to advocate and support families.


If you have any questions, please contact Kelle Masten via email at kelle.masten@nasmhpd.org or Paige Thomas at paige.thomas@nasmhpd.org.

Live closed captioning and ASL interpreters will be available for this webinar. 



Thank you!