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Jargon Buster – Mental Health Terms

Some of the language used by your Local Mental Health Team may be unfamiliar to you. Here’s an explanation of the main terms in plain English.

Acute Unit
A hospital unit for people who are very unwell with a mental health problem.

Advocate
Someone who gives information to people with mental health difficulties on their rights and who can help them to get their views wishes and feelings heard. They can talk things through and can speak on your behalf.

Antipsychotic
Medications usually used to treat psychosis.

Approved Centre
A hospital or unit that is registered with the Mental Health Commission to provide care and treatment to a person with a mental health problem under the Mental Health Act 2001.

Art therapy
Way of expressing difficult feelings by using imagination and creativity rather than thinking and talking. 

Assertive outreach team (AOT)
A team that aims to help people who find it hard to engage with services.  These teams tend to have smaller case loads than local mental health teams and often work intensively with people.  

Assessment
The process of working out what someone’s needs are and how they can be met.

Care Plan
A written plan of care and support covering a period of time (usually several months). 

Clinical Psychologist
Someone who works with a wide variety of people towards making changes in their lives. The process begins with gathering a thorough understanding of the person’s thoughts, emotions and behaviour.  From this, a collaborative plan is drawn up, to help people work towards a preferred way of life, in keeping with what is important to them.

Clinician
Someone who provides care and treatment to patients, such as a nurse, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Code of Practice
A document that provides guidance to mental health professionals, managers and staff of mental health units on how they should fulfil their duties.  They are not laws and staff do not have to follow them if there is a good reason not to. 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
A ‘talking treatment’ to overcome upsetting and unhelpful ways of thinking and behaviour.

Community Mental Health Nurse (CMHN)
A qualified nurse who provides out patient and the follow-up care and recovery service when the individual is living at home or in the community.

Community Mental Health Team (CMHT)
The providers of mental health services on a local basis.  These teams may include Psychiatrists, Clinical Psychologists, Community Mental Health Nurses, Social Workers and Occupational Therapists. All of these professionals work jointly in trying to develop care and recovery initiatives to meet the needs of the person using the services.

Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN)
A qualified mental health nurse who supports someone in the community.

Confidentiality
Treating your information - medical or other - as private and not for sharing. Within your unit “not for sharing” will mean not sharing outside of those that provide care for you. You should always be told if your care team wants to share it with anyone else and why.

Consent
Where permission is given for things relating to care and treatment. For example, consenting to take a particular medication.

Consultant
A specialist who has reached a certain level of expertise in psychology, psychiatry or nursing.

Consultant Psychiatrist
A medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders who has overall responsibility for a patient’s care including medication.

Depot Injections
Long-acting medication often used where people find that this is a better option than taking tablets.

Dual diagnosis
A combination of mental illness with another condition such as alcohol or drug misuse.

Early Intervention Service (EI)
A mental health team working with adults of working age who are experiencing their first episode of psychosis or are in the early stages of illness.

ECT
Electroconvulsive therapy or treatment.

Elder Abuse
Inappropriate and threatening physical or mental treatment of older people.

Family/Systemic Therapy
Therapy involving and exploring difficulties in relationships with family, partners and friends.

Forensic Services
The area of mental health dealing with people who commit offences while being mentally ill.

General Practitioner (GP)
Local doctors based in the community.

Health Service Executive (HSE)
The body responsible for providing public health services in Ireland.

Home Care Service
The Home Care Team is available in the community seven days a week, usually visiting the person in their own home.  Team members have smaller case loads than colleagues in Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT’s), which enables them to spend more time with the individual and their carers in the stabilisation phase of the illness and later in the recovery phase.

Inpatient
Someone staying in hospital.

Key Worker
The one person who is responsible for making sure that people are keeping to what was agreed in your Care Plan and who has have overall responsibility for your care and treatment. You should be able to speak to that person when you are concerned about anything.

Mental Health Act 2001
The law that provides for mental health care and treatment in Ireland.

Mental Health Commission
An organisation set up under the Mental Health Act to promote high standards and good practices in mental health services and to protect the interests of people detained in hospital.

Multi-agency
Service planning and co-operation carried out by a number of agencies working together.

Multidisciplinary
Service planning and operation carried out by a number of people who have different jobs. For example, a team including a social worker, occupational therapist and nurse.

Music Therapy
A way of expressing difficult feelings by using music and creativity rather than thinking and talking.

Next of Kin
The person nominated by a person with mental health difficulties as their contact in case of emergency.

Occupational Therapist (OT)
A person working to develop skills and confidence in everyday life, such as work, social and leisure activities and personal care.

Outpatient
Someone who comes to hospital for an appointment to see a doctor, nurse, social worker or psychologist but does not stay overnight.

Pharmacist
Someone with expert knowledge of medicines.

Pharmacology
The study of drugs and medicines, and their uses and effects.

Psychiatrist
A medical doctor with specialist experience and qualifications in mental illness and emotional disorders.

Psychological Therapies (also known as “talking therapies”)
Ways of helping people by talking through emotional problems with a trained psychological therapist.

Psychologist
Someone with a psychology degree and expertise in psychological therapies who helps people with emotional or psychological problems.

Psychosis
Disorders involving distorted perceptions of reality – often with symptoms of hallucinations and delusions.

Psychotherapist
Someone trained in psychotherapy. They can be from any professional background or none, but should be registered with a professional psychotherapy organisation.

Psychotherapy
A ‘talking treatment’ to help people to understand their mental or emotional problems and change behaviour, thoughts or emotions.

Referral
Introducing someone for assessment or help.

Rehabilitation
Services defined to improve people’s effectiveness after illness or disability.

Respite Care
Short-term, usually residential care which allows the person with mental health difficulties or their carer to have a break.

Service User
The person receiving care from mental health services. Some people prefer to use the word ‘patient’.

Social workers
A professional who helps with practical aspects of living. They usually work closely with other organisations such as GPs and hospitals and help you access benefits and schemes from the HSE and social welfare.

Stigma
Attitudes and the use of negative labels to identify a person living with mental illness. Stigma is a barrier and discourages people and their families from getting the help they need due to the fear of being discriminated against.

Team Leader
A senior clinician, such as nurse or social worker, in charge of a mental health team.