Images & Words: Language

Words: you use them every day.  They can get you in to trouble, bring encouragement, create laughter or tears, provide advice or insult and in the case of the words being thought about here, lead to restriction of liberty or detention in a psychiatric hospital! 

We use many of our words often, without any depth of thought or occasionally, with so much it can be debilitating.  We might agonise over a word or expression taking great care and precision over when and how it is delivered whilst at other times we use words as naturally and easily as breathing.  Words convey ideas, requests and information, carry good and bad news, and give hope or despair, laughter, advice information and so on. 

Language has been a key issue for anyone concerned with discrimination for some time

Think!  Words can be used individually or in strings that can go on seemingly, for ever.  They can bore or entertain, challenge and embolden, crush and defeat.   Whoever first said, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me,” didn’t understand.  Words, can change lives.

This project, Images & Words was never intended to inform any debate.  Only to present a series of pictures with a dual emphasis: the person and the word.  World Mental Health Day provided an opportunity to present the photographs and emphasise the further component of an exploration of the relationship between words and people.  In the arena of mental health this is such an important aspect of the relationship between society and mental illness which generates such stigma, disadvantage, confusion and misunderstanding that we can only benefit from open discussion and consideration of the language used and its impact.

These days, to be regarded as PC (politically correct) is a bit of an insult.  People who are accused this way are regarded as being more interested in theory than the real issues of day to day life.  All that talk about white or black coffee, manholes and especially, the range of loaded words associated with difference, became points of ridicule and opportunities to reduce the process of debate.  Language has been a key issue for anyone concerned with discrimination for some time and the recognition of the power inherent in the words we use has been important to understanding the process of change.  Yet words can often be stigmatising, damaging and cause prejudice that compounds individual difficulties.