National Alliance on Mental Illness
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How we talk about NAMI

Who is NAMI?: Using a Boilerplate

A boilerplate is an adopted standard language used to describe an organization. It is an "About Us" paragraph that is included on press releases to inform people about what NAMI is if they are unfamiliar.

At NAMI, we use the following language to describe who we are. Feel free to copy this language and adapt it for your NAMI State Organization or NAMI Affiliate.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nationís largest grassroots mental health organization. NAMI provides advocacy, education, support and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives.

Language: The Importance of How We Say Things

The way in which you say something can often impact how the listener hears it. The words we use can influence audiences in positive and negative ways. At NAMI, we value empowering language that avoids labeling individuals living with mental illness. While your target audience needs to be considered when creating content, being conscious of how we write and talk to the general public is crucial to breaking down stigma barriers and promoting awareness.

Words to Avoid (and Words to Use)!

Some words can be seen as offensive to some groups. Here are some words and phrases that we avoid using:


Identifying a person by his or her illness (e.g., Jenny is a schizophrenic)

Suffer (e.g., suffering from depression)

Instead of using these terms we say an individual living with a mental illness or an individual or family affected by mental illness. A person is bigger than any illness and should not be defined solely by it. A mental illness is only one aspect of a person’s life.

Don’t Be Too Technical

Sometimes it is hard to avoid using scientific jargon when discussing mental health topics. However, while some people may understand these terms, many individuals just learning about mental illness, and even individuals who are knowledgeable of the topic, may have a hard time understanding what you are trying to tell them. Be sure to break down technical or medical terms into language that a general audience can understand. Often people who will be reading what you have written are not knowledgeable of the subject.

Writing for the Web and Social Media

Web Content

When writing for the web, keep things short and sweet and try to link to longer documents, or "deeper reads." Make materials on your website easily accessible and downloadable for your visitors. Keep in mind that the content of PDFs and JPGs are not searchable by web crawlers (crawlers are programs from Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. that index pages on the internet).

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a practice for placing important keywords in your website's code. This helps ensure that people who are searching the web will find your site. To read more about how to put SEO into practice, visit here.

Social Media

Social networking, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are digital media outlets that thrive on user participation. NAMI engages in social networking as a business and marketing tool and you should too. Social media allows you to interact with, as well as reach out to, users who prefer the socially based Web experience. It's a great way to drive people to your website, join your NAMI State Organization or NAMI Affiliate and/or participate in a NAMI event, such as a NAMIWalk. For a great breakdown of social media in detail, visit this advocacy section of our website.