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What we say matters, so we need to understand what we are saying.

If you don’t understand the difference between mental health and mental health illness its time to educate yourself.

Mental health illness, conditions or distress is when your mental health is so negatively affected by your behaviour, emotions and social interaction change determinately. Mental health is happening to every single one of on a continuum

When we tell people mental health is all about self-care, this can be interpreted by the individual to mean the illness is their fault and cause fear of disclosing through shame or a sense of failure. When the reality is mental health illnesses, conditions and distress can happen simultaneously with all the good wellbeing aspects.

If we make assumptions of what the individual is experiencing or saying rather than arming ourselves with the knowledge it can have catastrophic impacts.

After victory in Europe, the Allied leaders (Truman, Churchill, Stalin, and Chiang Kai-Shek) called for Japan’s unconditional surrender at the Potsdam Conference. The Allies hoped they could avoid a land invasion of Japan and the slaughter that was bound to follow. Initially, the Japanese government said nothing while they considered their options. But when reporters hounded Prime Minister Kantaro Suzuki for an answer he eventually uttered a single word, “mokusatsu.”

This choice of words is probably one of the most tragic decisions ever made. Depending on context, mokusatsu has several meanings. What the Prime minister meant was “no comment.” Unfortunately, the word was translated to the Allies as meaning “not worthy of comment; held in silent contempt.” The Allies, particularly America, were utterly sick and tired of Japan’s “kamikaze” spirit. They took the word as an insult of the highest order and a rejection of their demands for peaceful surrender. You can guess what happened next. Linguists have dubbed the incident “the world’s most tragic translation.”

The way we say things to others can leave a long-lasting impact.

So let's arm ourselves with the knowledge to have safe space conversations at work, create a culture in your workplace that understands mental health.