Your Responses to “What’s in a Term”
By Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.
You’ll be happy to hear that comments are continuing to arrive in SAMHSA’s email reader-response box regarding the terms that describe our work in the field of substance abuse and mental health.
Thank you very much for your participation in this open dialogue. In the past few weeks, more than 150 individuals sent in their ideas, personal stories, and impassioned responses. Two advocacy e-newsletters—JoinTogether.org and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—posted the call for comments to their readers as well. In addition, SAMHSA’s Facebook page posted the article.
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., SAMHSA Administrator
The article, “What’s in a Term?” (SAMHSA News, March/April 2010), asked you for your thoughts on several terms, including substance use, mental health, behavioral health, and recovery. In addition, we asked about terms used for individuals, e.g., “consumer,” a term that generated serious complaints from many of you.
Most important, everyone appreciated the invitation to an open forum and a respectful conversation. With that in mind, SAMHSA will continue to keep the reader-response email box open for a while longer.
In the early responses, we heard from people identifying themselves as treatment providers, counselors, people in recovery, former “substance abusers,” “people with mental health issues,” and many others.
One reader’s feedback : “Certainly the terms and labels we use should be as descriptively (clinically) accurate and as value neutral as possible. But the problem is that no matter how well you accomplish the ‘accuracy’ part, the ‘value’ component finds its way in because there’s always a normative dimension to word usage/concept formation.”
In sharing these comments, we are acknowledging everyone’s interpretation and opinion on these terms. At the same time, we’re welcoming an opportunity to take a step closer to standard language for our field.
Excerpts from reader responses are available. See “Your Comments, Ideas, Personal Stories...”
Thank you again for your participation!