Promoting mental health, demystifying mental illness, countering stigma and discrimination

Understanding Mental Health Jargon

The following information is by no means complete, but offers a basic understanding of some of the many terms associated with mental health.
Abnormal Behaviour

Normal tends to mean average. Abnormal behaviour tends to be changed behaviour that is different from the usual.

Acting Out

The process of expressing unconscious emotional conflicts or feelings with actions rather than words.

Occurs when a person cannot permanently stop themselves from doing something that tends to be unhealthy to engage in.
Process by which a service user commences an episode of care with a mental health provider.
Providing advice on an aspect of mental health care
Support for service users and/or family/whanau to express their requirements, concerns or complaints and to action and monitor these. This applies particularly if the service user's rights or interests are at risk or may have been infringed upon.
Affective Disorder
Term for types of mental illnesses that are characterised by extremely emotional responses and persistent mood disturbances. Bipolar disorder and depression are types of affective disorders.
The estrangement one feels in a setting one views as foreign, unpredictable or unacceptable.
Alternative Medication
Generally refers to those treatments and healthcare practices usually not taught in medical schools or used in our hospitals and used on their own in place of conventional medicine/medical treatment.
Apathy, alienation and personal distress resulting from the loss of goals previously valued.
A group of medications used to treat psychotic illnesses.
A symptom of several mental illnesses, apathy is a lack of emotion or interest in things one would ordinarily consider important.
Refers to the process of measurement. In mental health, assessment refers to the process of having one's personality, intelligence or brain functioning tested.
Care Pathway
Refers to the process from accessing mental health services to discharge from mental health services. It includes the process of assessment, diagnosis, treatments and rehabilitation.
Carer support or Carer Respite
Term for the provision of support for people involved with the daily care giving of someone with a serious mental illness, to have planned breaks - or respite.
A person providing care and support to a person with a mental illness.
Code of Rights
Health and Disability Services in New Zealand established in 1996, a 'Code of Consumer Rights'. These rights apply to all users of all mental health service providers.
Pertaining to thoughts or thinking. Cognitive disorders are disorders of thinking, for example Schizophrenia.
Committed or Formal Patient
Happens when the psychiatrist or other treating professional recommends that the person needs hospitalisation but the person does not agree to being admitted. Under certain circumstances it is possible for them to be admitted without their consent.
Community Mental Health Team
A team of different mental health professionals and support workers providing assessment, treatment and support for people with a mental illness.
Co Morbidity
(Also known as Dual Diagnosis) the simultaneous appearance of two of more illnesses such as the co-occurrence or schizophrenia and substance abuse.
Complimentary Therapies
These are non-clinical based therapies aimed at complementing clinical treatment.
Repetitive ritualistic behaviour such as hand washing or repetition of words spoken silently to prevent or reduce distress.
Consumer/Service User
A person receiving services from the mental health sector.
Consumer Movement
Consumer organised self-help support activities to promote improved mental health services and opportunities for maximising recovery.
Coping Mechanisms
Ways of adjusting to environmental stress without altering one's goals or purposes.
Usually a generic term for someone who counsels. The term can be synonymous with Therapist.
To 'decompensate' means, more or less, to fall apart mentally and emotionally.
A symptom of many mental illnesses, delusion is an illogical belief that is held strongly, even in the face of evidence that it is false.
A spectrum of affective disorders, ranging from passing sad moods to a serious crippling disease requiring medical treatment.
This is the term for the identification of an illness based on particular patterns of symptoms and enables health professionals to treat the illness.
The process of assessing, treating and preparing a person to go from one care setting to another.
E.g. From a hospital inpatient care to care in the community by a community mental health team, or, from care by a community mental health team to private or independent care.
The act of selecting or choosing on the basis of preconceived opinions. This can lead to less favourable treatment based on preconceived negative opinion, bias or partiality.
Confusion about the time of day, date or season (time), where one is (place), or who one is (person).
District Inspector
A lawyer appointed by the Minister of Health to assist people being assessed or treated under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, by providing information and support to ensure their rights are upheld.
DSM IV Diagnostic Axial System
Mental Disorders are diagnosed according to the DSM IV or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in edition 4 (IV). It is published by the American Psychiatric Association (1994).
Dual Diagnosis
The term used to describe a condition where a person has more than one major clinical psychological/psychiatric diagnosis.
ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy)
A psychiatric treatment in which a brief electrical stimulus is given to the brain via electrodes placed on the temples.
A term used to describe the process of how a condition has developed.
An exaggerated sense of physical and emotional wellbeing - not reality based.
Flight of Ideas
Racing, out of control thoughts and accelerated speech.
Forensic Services
A specialist service providing mental health assessment and support to people with a mental illness within the Justice System.
An inflated appraisal of one's worth, power, knowledge, importance or identity.
To see, hear, feel, touch, taste something that is not real.
A term used to describe a personality style characterized by the person's overly dramatic speech and behaviour.
Home Based Services
Term for the provision of support to assist people re-establish their skills and confidence with the tasks of independent living.
Home Help
The term for the provision of short term support to people who require practical assistance with the tasks of managing household and daily living skills.
Informal Patient
If the psychiatrist or the treating professional recommends that a person needs hospital treatment and the person agrees to be admitted, this is called voluntary admission, and the person is an informal patient.
Informed Consent
Consent given by a service user or their representative(s) having considered all relevant information, for a specific service or intervention carried out by a service provider.
An awareness of one's illness and mental status.
Integrated Treatment Plan
A plan developed in consultation with the consumer/tangata whai ora and family/whanau/supporters (if appropriate) and the treatment team that takes responsibility for provision of care to a service user.
Self-observation, examination of one's feelings, often as a result of psychotherapy.
Preoccupation with oneself and accompanying decrease of interest in the outside world.
Involuntary Admission
When a Psychiatrist of other treating professional recommends that a person needs hospitalisation and the person does not agree, it is possible, under certain circumstances, for the person to be admitted without their consent.
Kaupapa Maori Service
Services predominantly for, but often not exclusively for, Maori. These services are supplied by Maori service providers and use Maori principles and cultural practices.
Key worker
The mental health worker who has responsibility for coordinating care and treatment to the service user and who links with and refers to other services and community support as appropriate.
The psychic drive or energy usually associated with the sexual instinct.
A collection of symptoms seen in bipolar and other affective disorders.
Manic Episode
A period of exaggerated gaiety, grandiose thoughts and a sense of invincibility, irritability, hyperactivity, hypersexuality, poor concentration and rapid thinking and talking. Not all these symptoms may appear at the same time.
Mental Health Sector
Includes all providers of mental health services whether they be GPs, Counsellors, Service Users, Family/Whanau, Hospital based services, providers of support services, etc.
Mental Health Services
Organisations whose primary function is the provision of care, treatment, support and education for recovery to people with a mental illness or supporters of people with a mental illness.
Mental Health Support Worker
Non clinicians who work and support people with a mental illness.
Mental Illness
A general term for a wide range of disorders involving the brain where there are varying degrees of impaired mental functioning and where both psychological and behavioural symptoms may be exhibited.
Mobile Support Services
Term for the provision of support to assist people re-establish their skills and confidence with the tasks of independent living.
A pervasive and sustained emotion that colours the perception of the world.
Mood Disorder
Refers to the family of depressive disorders and related diagnoses. Mood disorders do not include anxiety disorders.
Nervous Breakdown
This is not an official clinical diagnosis but can refer to a condition of anxious or depressive collapse or overwhelm.
Official Information
Is any information held by local or central government agencies. Within the sphere of mental health services it applies to any written or electronic information about a service user held by a health purchaser of service provider.
Awareness of one's self in relation to time, place and person.
An insidiously developing pattern of unfounded thoughts and fears, often based on misinterpretation of actual events.
Passive Aggressive Behaviour
Can occur when a person is angry with another person but, for some reason, is unable to express that anger.
Personality Traits
Prominent aspects of personality that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts.
A group of anxiety disorders characterized by intense, irrational fears, either of particular things or situations or being embarrassed or humiliated in a social setting.
Frequency of a disorder.
A defence mechanism, operating unconsciously, when what is emotionally unacceptable in the self is unconsciously rejected and attributed (projected) to another/others.
A medically trained specialist in mental health who, as a doctor, focussed on the definite signs and symptoms of mental illness to formulate a diagnosis and treatment.
Psychiatrists are able to prescribe medication.
Someone working in mental health who is trained in the assessment of emotional and behavioural problems, taking into account the social context in which they occur.
Psychologists are also trained in the assessment, non-medical treatment and management of mental illness. Psychologists do not prescribe medication.
A group of symptoms in major mental illness that include loss of contact with reality and breakdown of normal social functioning and extreme personality changes.
Where therapist and service user work together to explore how events of the past relate to the service user's current emotional and psychological problems, with the aim of resolving them.
A defence mechanism, operating unconsciously, in which an individual attempts to justify feelings of behaviour that would otherwise be intolerable.
Recovery focussed
Term used as the philosophy to be practised to ensure a person with a mental illness reaches their maximum potential for recovery from their mental illness.
Term used for the process used to support a person with a mental illness to recover to the extent possible to live a fulfilling lifestyle.
Partial or symbolic return to earlier patterns of behaviour.
A defence mechanism, operating unconsciously, that banishes unacceptable ideas, fantasies, affects or impulses from the consciousness.
Second Opinion
Occurs when a service user seeks a second opinion from another psychiatrist.
Is more or less the collection of ideas about how one sees oneself.
Service Provider
A group or organisation contracted by the Taranaki DHB or other agency to provide treatment and support to service users and their support people.
(Also the term 'psychopath') refers to people who are antisocial and who commit antisocial and/or criminal acts, without any corresponding sense of guilt.
Special or restricted patients
These are mentally disturbed patients who are charged with or have committed a criminal act.
Split personality
A slang term often inaccurately associated with schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.
A mental mechanism in which the self or others are viewed as all good or all bad, with a failure to integrate the positive and negative qualities of the self or others.
A general term for the widespread fear and misunderstanding of mental illness among uninformed people, together with their negative attitudes towards those who suffer from them.
Any life event or life change that may be associated temporarily (and perhaps casually) with the onset, occurrence, or exacerbation of a mental disorder.
A state of unresponsiveness with immobility and mutism.
A subjective manifestation of a mental illness. Symptoms are reported by the affected individual rather than observed by the examiner.
A grouping of signs and symptoms, based on their frequent reoccurrence that may suggest a common pattern or treatment selection.
Tangata Whai Ora
People with experience of a mental illness, who are seeking wellness, or recovery of self.
A predisposition to react in a particular way to stimuli.
Generally short for psychotherapist. A person who helps people suffering with problems amenable to psychological treatment.
A characteristic of substance dependence that may be shown by the need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect.
Refers to the range of medications and rehabilitation provided and the involvement of the service user and her/his family/whanau/supporters in the treatment process.
Treatment Plan
Sometimes referred to as a "care plan" or "management plan", it is the written summary of the treatment being provided by mental health staff and other supporting agencies.
Voluntary admission
If the psychiatrist or the treating professional recommends that a person needs hospital treatment and the person agrees to be admitted, this is called voluntary admission.
Maori - literally translated as family.

For a more comprehensive and detailed selection of jargon or glossary, try any of the following web sites:

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Taranaki Mental Health Sector