Person in active addiction


Person with a substance misuse disorder


Person experiencing an alcohol/drug problem

Why it works:  these modifiers give identity to individuals as people, rather than labeling them by their illness.


Substance misuse disorder


Alcohol and drug disorder (or disease)

Why it works:  TBy incorporating disorder or disease, these terms reinforce the medical nature of the condition

Drug Habit

Person who misuses alcohol/ drugs


Has a mental health condition (or diagnosis)

Why it works: conveys the message that an individual's total identity is not his or her illness label, rather, he or she is a full person that happens to have the experience of mental illness.

Crazy/Psycho Insane/Lunatic


Why it works: Indicates the patient is free from the dangerous compulsive behaviors of addiction. Less stigmatizing than “clean” or “sober” yet shows the person is no longer in active addiction.


The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Department of Mental Health launch a statewide campaign, Stop Judging. Start Healing, aimed at assisting friends, family, physicians, mental health care clinicians, substance abuse prevention and treatment providers and all people in Alabama to change the way we speak about individuals with mental health illness, substance and opioid use disorders, HIV and Hepatitis C.

The language we use can be hurtful and harming to the people we care about. Using words that help and support others is important. Decreasing stigma surrounding mental health illnesses, substance and opioid use disorders and HIV and Hepatitis C is vital to ensuring accurate information is shared with those we love and care for.

“People with these conditions often fear that others are blaming or judging them,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “These conditions are manageable, and so it is important for everyone to understand that irrational fear creates barriers to people seeking and receiving care. Compassion helps break these barriers. Everyone deserves dignity, compassion and support.” The campaign encourages the public to have open conversations to break the cycle of stigma by sharing kindness and understanding. Changing the way, we talk changes people, and the words providers and families use are powerful.

"The stigma that surrounds mental illness and substance use disorder is the number one barrier to treatment and recovery. We must learn how to speak in positive terms, support our friends and family, and offer appropriate resources to people who need our help,” said Commissioner Lynn Beshear, Alabama Department of Mental Health.

“Partnering with the Alabama Department of Public Health is the right, next step in the movement to educate practitioners, providers and the people of Alabama, in decreasing the stigma surrounding diseases that affect the mind and body. Support for total health is necessary for the well-being of an individual,” Commissioner Beshear continued.

The statewide campaign consists of television, social media and radio advertisements, with a targeted delivery of information to medical professionals to increase awareness of the importance of the use of people first language.

Watch the videos, share on social media using #stopjudgingstarthealing, and help change the conversation.