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Stigma, Mental Illness, Judges, Language, Courts


Despite ongoing advances in understanding the causes and prevalence of mental health issues, stigmatizing language is still often directed at people who have mental illness. Such language is regularly used by parties, such as the media, who have great influence on public opinion and attitudes. Since the decisions from Canadian courtrooms can also have a strong impact on societal views, we asked whether judges use stigmatizing language in their decisions. To answer this question, we conducted a qualitative study by searching through modern Canadian case law using search terms that were indicative of stigmatizing language. We found that, although judges generally use respectful language, there are still many instances where judges unnecessarily choose words and terms that are stigmatizing towards people with mental illness. We conclude that, to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, judges should be more careful with their language.


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Publication Abbreviation

J Ethics Mental Health