Watch Your Language: A Review of the Use of Stigmatizing Language by Canadian Judges

5(1) Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, 2010

8 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2012

See all articles by Jocelyn Downie

Jocelyn Downie

Schulich School of Law & Faculty of Medicine

Michelle Black

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

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.

Keywords: stigma, mental illness, judges, language

Suggested Citation

Downie, Jocelyn and Black, Michelle, Watch Your Language: A Review of the Use of Stigmatizing Language by Canadian Judges (2010). 5(1) Journal of Ethics in Mental Health, 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2101683

Jocelyn Downie (Contact Author)

Schulich School of Law & Faculty of Medicine ( email )

Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H9
Canada

Michelle Black

Dalhousie University - Schulich School of Law ( email )

6061 University Avenue
6061 University Ave
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4H9
Canada

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