Image courtesy of Faces & Voices of Recovery

Language Matters: Breaking Down Stigma and Lowering Barriers to Recovery Support

As we continue celebrating National Recovery Month 2021 at Herren Wellness, it’s important to take a look at how the use of language matters when dismantling stigma and lowering the barriers to recovery support.

1 in 2 individuals in the United States are affected by addiction- and the language and images around addiction and mental health directly impact who gets help and how soon they seek it.

In this blog we take a look at a great resource by the Faces and Voices of recovery and how we help to destigmatize addiction and mental health at Herren Wellness.

When talking about addiction, language matters as outlined in The Faces and Voices of Recovery who published a new guide Your Choice, Our Lives: A Quick Guide to Fair and Accurate Media Coverage of Addiction & Mental Illness which helps break down the importance of changing the narrative.

According to the guide there are important statistics to understand when discussing the language around addiction and mental health, and that is how many people it affects:

Addiction and Mental Health Statistics:

  • 1 in 5 adults in the US experience mental health challenges in any given year
  • 1 in 7 individuals experience addiction at some point throughout their lifespan
  • 1 in 2 individuals know someone impacted by addiction

“Addiction and mental illness – and their related deaths – are covered frequently by local and national news, oftentimes including stigma-inducing language and imagery. This must stop. Addiction and mental illness can be tragic – but people, families and communities recover. Telling the whole story is important; fair and accurate media coverage should use only respectful, person centered language and imagery. By not sensationalizing drug use, addiction and mental illness, the media has the power to improve public understanding and counter existing misperceptions, prejudice, and negative beliefs. As with other chronic health concerns, the community benefits by learning that prevention works, treatment is effective, and recovery is real.”

Recovery Statistics:

  • 20.2 million Americans (8.2% of US population) identify as a person in recovery from a drug/alcohol use problem
  • 30.8 million Americans (12.5% of US population) identify as a person in recovery from a mental health issue

Your Choices Our Lives Guide explains that imagery and language used by the media can create stigma which has the power to kill.  That is why Faces of Recovery outlines Fair and accurate media coverage when talking about mental health and addiction.

Image Courtesy of Faces & Voices of Recovery

How the Media can help:

  1. Use person-first language refer to someone with a behavioral health challenge as “a person with a mental health disorder and/or substance use disorder” instead of – “an addict,” “an alcoholic,” or “a schizophrenic”
  2.  Emphasize humanity over condition and avoid “othering” mental health is a natural part of the human experience, and persons affected should be discussed with empathy, not shamed or alienated
  3.  Avoid clichéd imagery avoid using pictures of hypodermic needles, straitjackets, and other imagery that reinforce negative stereotypes

When looking at word choice it is found that positive language increases public support for :

  • Effective substance use & mental health disorder policy
  • Additional funding for substance use & mental health disorder services
  • Interactions and engagements with those who are affected by substance use & mental health disorders

Examples of word substitutions include:

Positive                                                   Negative

Person with substance use                  Alcoholic or addict


Alcohol and drug use                            Alcohol and drug abuse

Recurrence of use                                  Relapse

Person in Recovery                               Clean/Sober

Person with a mental health                Crazy


To ensure fair and accurate media coverage images also must be de stigmatizing and avoid using sensationalized labels and images (such as criminals, drugs and paraphernalia) and focus on recovery-oriented labels (such as community, person, treatment and recovery).

At Herren Wellness we embody the messages in the Faces of Recovery Your Choice, Our Lives: A Quick Guide to Fair and Accurate Media Coverage of Addiction & Mental Illness.  We believe in treating the individual through our unique approach to recovery combining holistic wellness with medical and clinical support for the continuity of care.  We are different from other treatment centers because we are guiding guests on a journey of self discovery and not putting them into a box of “alcoholic/addict” which carries stigma.  We create personalized, sustainable wellness plans based on each individual guest’s needs and strengths with a focus on the whole person.  Guests who enter our program come to us with concern for their mental health or substance use and in turn we care for them with the ultimate goal of applying holistic approaches to health and wellness to enable personal growth and transformation.

We usher guests through their own journeys of self discovery, stigma free, so that they can then go out into the world with the utmost sense of well-being and sharing their recovery with their families and communities.

About Herren Wellness

At Herren Wellness we witness the healing power of recovery each day as we walk with guests on their journey. We understand that recovery takes time, that there is not one path to recovery and through community and positive connections that sustained recovery can be achieved.

When you come here, you are immediately connected with a thriving community of people at all stages of their recovery journey. We introduce healthy habits and routines centered around emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness that provide a solid foundation for rediscovering your interests, experiencing joy in sobriety, and building structure and routine.

We provide several alumni support communities, including a weekly recovery support group, monthly alumni meeting, and online alumni community you can access anytime. Your connection to Herren Wellness doesn’t end when your stay ends; we are there for you throughout your recovery journey.

If you, or a loved one, are looking for help, please call us at (844) 443-7736, email us at, or fill out a contact form. You are not alone.