Terms We’ve Heard So Far . . .
Have you heard or used the following terms on mental health, behavioral health, substance use, recovery, and individuals? Would you recommend certain ones for the field to use? Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The term “mental health” leaves out mental illness, and we really need to focus on the latter.
“Mental illness” leaves out emotional well-being and the growing science of prevention.
“Mental health” leaves out substance abuse and/or addictions while “behavioral health” misconstrues the disease nature of mental illness and addictions.
“Behavioral health” implies a chosen behavior, easily stopped if a person just had enough willpower.
“Behavioral health” focuses too much on symptomological behaviors that people cannot control.
“Behavioral health” is a term that encompasses both substance abuse/addiction and mental illness/health.
“Substance use disorders” is too strong and does not recognize that a person can be abusing substances long before he/she can be characterized as having a disorder.
“Substance abuse” is too soft and does not recognize the nature of substance use disorders or the importance of prevention.
The medical model of “disease” is not consistent with the experience of people who believe they are simply unique individuals labeled for not conforming to this world’s expectations.
“Recovery” is a term for substance abuse or addictions but is not well defined for mental illnesses.
“Recovery” means abstinence (including prescription medications).
“Recovery” is a journey. Some can be on a path to recovery or in recovery while using substances, taking medications, or experiencing symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, flat affect, or flight of ideas.
The term “consumer” is demeaning or does not work for the addictions world.
“Client” suggests a power/subordinate relationship.
“Patient” is too medical.
“Survivor” is real and yet too political, as if the system and treatment are dangerous in their own right.
Thank you very much for participating in this dialogue about the terms we use in the field. We will report the results in a forthcoming edition of SAMHSA News. Send your comments to email@example.com.