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Glossary of Terms

How to use this glossary of terms

This glossary of terms is for information only and is provided to help everyone quickly find and understand the terms used across this website. It is not intended to be used as medical advice or as a substitute for proper treatments or diagnosis by a qualified health professional.

To find a term, click on a letter in the A-Z list. The page should then jump to that section of the list, so you can browse down that section to find the word you want.


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Ableism: The discrimination of a person with a disability based on stereotypical beliefs. Ableism refers to the idea that people who are seen as able-bodied or have regular abilities are superior to those defined as having a disability.

Advocacy: Giving support to help others in expressing their views. An advocate is someone who publicly speaks up and promotes the rights of others in the hope to create change at a social, economic, or political level.

Ally: A person who sees themselves as a supporter and active advocate for a specific group of people. An ally is someone who:

  • works to create a safe space for others,
  • is non-judgemental,
  • challenges stigma and
  • educates themselves by listening to the experiences of others.

Allyship: A person or group’s ongoing advocacy efforts, understanding that as an ally you may need to let go of previous thoughts and understandings and be open to re-educating yourself. Allyship involves building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability whilst actively working to advocate for a specific group of people.

Anorexia nervosa: A mental health condition that is characterised by low body weight accompanied by an obsessive fear of gaining weight. A person living with anorexia nervosa views themselves as overweight or large when in fact, they are severely underweight. In order to reduce weight gain they may engage in behaviors such as:

  • restricting themselves from foods
  • restricting themselves from foods but also regularly engage in binge-eating or self-induced vomiting
  • over exercise or
  • misuse of products such as laxatives.

Anxiety: The bodies emotional and physical response to a perceived or actual threat. It is not uncommon for people to experience feelings of anxiety however  if these feelings begin to impact a persons day to day life it is important to seek support around ways to manage the anxiety.

Symptoms of anxiety can be physical, emotional and mental and may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • panic attacks
  • racing heart
  • headaches
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling worried that something bad will happen, fearing the worst case scenario
  • upset stomach
  • trembling hands

Autism Spectrum Disorder: A developmental condition that affects how a person communicates, learns and interacts socially with others and the world around them.

There are a broad range of characteristics associated with autism. Some examples include:

  • showing a strong interest in or obsession with a specific topic or subject
  • engaging in repetitive movements or behaviours
  • experiencing difficulty in communicating and interacting with others
  • delayed language skills, cognitive or learning skills
  • experiences of distress when particular routines or order is not followed


Binge Eating Disorder: Binge eating disorder is a mental health condition where a person experiences strong feelings to overeat, resulting in regular binge eating. The excessive intake of food may take place quickly or over a period of grazing and continues even if the person is not hungry. As a result, it is common for people to experience feelings of shame or guilt after binge eating.

Bipolar Disorder: A mental health condition that affects the brain resulting in a person experiencing extreme shifts in mood, energy and behaviour.  Extreme changes in mood can result in a person experiencing periods of depression and mania.

Borderline Personality Disorder: A mental health condition which causes a persons feelings towards themselves to fluctuate between emotional extremes. A person experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder may experience

  • difficulty controlling and regulating emotions
  • a pattern of unstable relationships
  • sense of abandonment
  • feelings of emptiness
  • impulsive behaviour
  • suicidal ideation and self-harm

Bulimia Nervosa: A mental health condition where a person is frequently involved in consuming large amounts of food over a short timeframe followed by behaviours such as self-induced vomiting, fasting, or over-exercising. A person experiencing bulimia nervosa may not necessarily be underweight and often will maintain a weight that is average or slightly above average making the condition easy to miss.  


Carer Consultant: A carer consultant is a person with lived or living experience as a carer The role of a carer consultant is to represent and advocate for the interests of carers as well as offer support to carers and their families. 

Case Manager: A Case Manager is a professional who works closely with a person experiencing a mental health condition to assess their current needs, link them to community supports, and create a personalised recovery or treatment plan.

Clinical Nurse: A Clinical Nurse is a registered nurse who in addition, has specialised qualifications in a particular area such as mental health. A Clinical Nurse may work within an inpatient unit or as a Community Case Manager. An example of the role of a Clinical Nurse includes direct patient care, individual assessments, developing treatment plans, and supervising and educating nursing staff.  

Co-design: The concept of Co-design is about bringing community members and stakeholders together in conversation to jointly make decisions informed by each other’s expertise, whether that be a lived experience perspective or professional perspective. Members of a Co-design group may include persons with lived experience, carers, government agencies, clinicians, and or other professionals and focuses on shared power and inclusion.

Consumer Movement: The consumer movement is a social movement that focuses on the promotion of social change, rights, advocacy, and reclaiming power. The consumer movement is based on the perception that those with lived and living experiences of a mental health condition are the expects and can provide valuable knowledge and insights regarding mental health care.

The consumer movement may also be referred to as 

  • consumer participation 
  • psychiatric survivors movement 
  • survivor movement 
  • ex-patient movement. 

Consumer / Carer Advisory Groups (CAGs): Are made up of those who identify as someone with a lived or living experience of a mental health condition, or as a carer of someone living with a mental health condition. A CAG may be formed locally, regional, or state-wide with the intention to influence change through the view of a lived experience perspective. 

Consumer Consultant: A person with lived or living experience of a mental health condition. The role of a consumer consultant is to represent, advocate and encourage participation of persons living with a mental health condition, providing a link between the person and the mental health service.  

Co-Production: Is a relationship where both persons with lived or living experience of a mental health condition and health professionals have shared power and provide equal contributions throughout all stages of a project including planning, designing, and evaluation.   

The principles of Co-Production include: 

  • equality 
  • diversity and accessibility and 
  • reciprocity and mutuality. 


Depression: Is a common mental health condition causing a lowering of mood that affects how you feel, think, and behave. 



Eating Disorders: Are a mental health condition where a person has developed an unhealthy preoccupation with food or their body weight or shape. The three most common eating disorders include

  • anorexia nervosa
  • bulimia nervosa
  • binge eating disorder.


Family Therapy: Therapy that focuses on specific issues that are impacting a family. Outcomes of family therapy may include improving patterns, communication and relationships within the family unit.


Gender Diverse: Is a broad term that refers to a person’s gender being expressed in a range of different ways. Gender diversity is about recognising and respecting that for some people, having to define themselves as binary, male or female can feel restricting. Therefore, gender diverse people may choose to describe themselves as non-binary. 

Gender Incongruence: Is a term for when a person’s gender is not connected to the gender that they were assigned at birth. Previously gender incongruence was referred to as the stigmatizing term ‘gender dysphoria.”  


Hallucination: Sensory experiences that appear real however exist only in a persons mind. Experiences may include seeing, smelling, touching or hearing something that in reality is not occurring.


Intersectionality: Refers to how different parts of a person’s identity such as their gender, sex, race, religion, and appearance when combined can create different types of advantages, disadvantages, discrimination, and, or privilege for a person.




Kleptomania: Experiencing the recurrent inability to resist the temptation and impulsive urge to steal.


Lived Experience: Refers to anyone who has moved through life with a mental illness, recognising that every person’s experience of mental illness, and how the world treats you as a result, is unique. This experience brings many challenges, but is also rich in learning, resilience, and personal development. To have Lived Experience, therefore, is to possess a valuable insight into the effectiveness of mental health services, and to know from personal experience the complex relationship between society and the treatment of those experiencing mental health conditions.

Lived Experience Leadership: In essence, an act of Lived Experience Leadership is an act of sharing. To be a Lived Experience Leader is to let your story out into the world, to offer your experience of mental illness as a source of comfort, or guidance, or just to say, ‘I’ve been there too.’ It can be hard to look back on dark times in your life, but for others who may have a similar story, there is no better guide than those who have been down the same path.

Right now, there is a movement empowering those with Lived Experience to have greater influence over policy and service outcomes in the mental health sector. The way people with Lived Experience utilise their insight can range from speaking to friends and family about mental health, to working as an advocate for mental health organisations. These are all acts of Lived Experience Leadership, and combined, their voices can reach beyond the immediate audience and change the understanding of mental illness at a greater societal level.

Lived Experience Perspective: A view that has been formed based on someone’s current or past personal life experiences of living with or caring for someone with, a mental health condition.  

Lived Experience of Suicide: “Having experienced suicidal thoughts, survived a suicide attempt, cared for someone through suicidal crisis, or been bereaved by suicide.”Roses in the Ocean. 

Lived Experience Workforce: Within mental health, the lived experience workforce includes people who:

  • identify as a person with lived or living experience of having a mental health condition or caring for someone with a mental health condition  
  • provide their expertise, formed by their personal experiences, and knowledge as part of their role 



Madness: A term that is used by people with lived or living experiences of a mental health condition as a way of challenging the medical model. Mad activists advocate changing society’s view on the phrase, recognising madness as an identity that does not define someone as ill or unwell but is seen in a positive light as part of a person’s individuality and no longer a disabling term.

Mad Pride: Is a mass movement of persons living with a mental health condition that rejects the concept of mental illness. Mad Pride advocates that a person should be proud of their mad identity, seeking to reclaim labels that in the past have been used against them, challenging the idea that someone is broken and in need of being fixed. 

Mad Studies: A a social movement that challenges and questions what the past and the medical model have taught us and asks that we listen to those with lived experience and their points of view. Mad Studies focuses on both educating and rewriting identity labels, reclaiming terms that were once seen as negative, and disabling and reframing these.   

Medicalisation: A process that defines and treats non-medical, individual, and personal traits as medical problems. 

Medical Model: The Medical Model sees changes to a person’s mental health condition as a result of medical causes as opposed to environmental or social influences. As a result the medical model measures these changes, problems or issues against specific structures as a way of diagnosing them. 

Mental Health Condition: Refers to a broad range of mental health experiences and conditions that impact and interfere with a person’s emotions, behaviour, and or thinking.  Also referred to as mental ill-health or mental illness. 


Neurodivergent: A non-medical term used to describe individuals whose brains and minds function in a way that varies from what is considered as typical.

Neurodivergence can be genetic, or acquired later in life with self diagnosis not being uncommon within the neurodivergent community.  This is due to various factors including the high cost and long wait times for assessment, as well as experiences of misdiagnoses.

Some examples of types of neurodivergence include Autism, ADHD/ADD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Depression and Cerebral Palsy.


Neurodiverse: A term used to describe a group of individuals whose behaviours and ways of thinking are different to those considered as ‘typical.’  

Neurodiversity: Refers to “the natural diversity of human minds.” – The Lived Experience Educator. 

Neurodiversity acknowledges the broader range of differences between individual neurological functioning and development, including both those who identify as Neurodivergent as well as those considered to be Neurotypical individuals.

Neurotypical: A term used to describe individuals who have ‘typical’ neurological functioning and development. The opposite of Neurodivergent. 

Nurse Unit Manager (NUM): Refers to the nurse in charge of a hospital inpatient unit. 

Non-binary: Non-binary is a term used by those who do not identify as being exclusively female or male. 



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): An anxiety disorder where a person experiences unwanted and repetitive (obsessive) thoughts which result in uncontrollable repetitive behaviours (compulsions). 

Obsessions may include:

  • preoccupation with having to have things in a particular order or the need to complete a task a specific way
  • obsessive fear of being harmed or others bring harmed
  • sexual thoughts
  • preoccupation with religious issues

Compulsions may include:

  • cleaning and or excessive hand washing
  • continuously checking things such as locked doors
  • touching or tapping things a specific number of times

Occupational Therapist (OT): A health professional who is trained to assist people in overcoming limitations they may be facing as a result of experiencing mental, physical, emotional or other health conditions.

An Occupational Therapist works to identify and improve areas of a persons daily living including: 

  • household functioning and community mobility 
  • personal care 
  • education and employment and 
  • social interests  

Oppression: Refers to the unfair use of power or treatment towards a specific group of people which as a result disempowers or prevents their freedom. 


Pansexual: Someone who is romantically and or sexually attracted to people regardless of their gender. 

Pathologization: Refers to treating a health condition or behaviour as a medical or psychiatric condition, seeing a potentially normal behaviour or ‘symptom’ as an indication of a disease or disorder. 

Pathologization can result in over-diagnosis, overuse of medications, and dismissing the feelings and needs of people living with a mental health condition. 

Patient Liaison Coordinator: Someone external from a Health Service who provides unbiased, confidential support to a person to discuss complaints, issues and concerns. 

Peer Driven Change: Occurs when communities of peers come together to identify a need and work together to lead change, as opposed to waiting on governments or organisations to implement change.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Can occur when a person has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event such as bullying, domestic violence or sexual abuse. This event has triggered intense fear, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness in them, and as a result they might experience flashbacks, nightmares and thoughts about the traumatic event. 

Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who has completed specialised training in psychiatry, allowing them to diagnose, and treat mental, emotional and behavioural conditions. 

A psychiatrist may engage in therapy with a person as well as prescribe medications if required.  

Psychologist: A health professional who explores a person’s mental health, emotional health and human behaviours through observation, assessment, and treatment such as counselling and therapy.

Psychological Distress: When a person experiences deeply unpleasant thoughts, feelings, symptoms, or experiences.  This may include feelings of anxiety, nervousness, hopelessness, and depression.  

Psychological Hazard: Also referred to as work or workplace stressors are aspects of work, including situations that arise within the workplace, that may cause or lead to stress, a decline in mental health, or physical injury or illness.


Questioning: A term used by those who are exploring or ‘questioning’ their gender and sexual orientation.


Recovery-Oriented Approach: Focuses on the needs of the person as an individual by placing them at the centre of their care.

It is about working in partnership with the person and those they have chosen to have involved in their care, seeing the person as a whole, acknowledging all aspects of their life not just their mental health.

Registered Nurse:  Is trained to provide care to patients within hospitals, doctors surgery’s, nursing homes, and other care facilities.  

A Registered Nurse within the mental health sector: 

  • can administer treatment and medications however does not have the authority to prescribe them 
  • records medical histories and symptoms 
  • educated patients and families about maintaining health and managing health conditions 
  • assists in the setup of care plans 


Sanism: is a term used to describe the discrimination and oppression of those who have been diagnosed with, or are seen to be living with, a mental health condition or emotional distress.

Schizophrenia: a mental health condition that affects the functioning on the brain, interfering with a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Symptoms may include confused thinking, delusions, and hallucinations.

Social Model: places importance on understanding mental health within the social contexts recognising that the person is not the problem, but rather the social environment. The Social model uses practice and evidence to work with communities, focusing on what needs to change within our society, not the person, to improve mental health and wellbeing. 

Social Prescribing: is when a health professional refers a person to a non-clinical, community-based service to support their health and wellbeing. 

Social Worker: an allied health professional who assists people in crisis or need of support. A social worker may provide the following services to a person or family: 

  • identification of any barriers or issues they may be experiencing and link them into appropriate services 
  • counselling  
  • service coordination 
  • advocacy and community engagement 

Suicide: when a person intentionally ends their own life by self-injury.

Suicidal Ideation: when a person experiences thoughts of ending their own life. 



Transgender: refers to those whose gender expression, identify or behaviour does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Trauma: “Any event that involves exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence has the potential to be traumatic. The trauma experienced can be physical and/or mental and not everyone will respond in the same way.” – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Treatment Orders: a legal order that enables an authorised professional to provide compulsory treatment including medication, therapy and or other treatments.



Voluntary Admission: Choosing to be admitted to a hospital or mental health unit as a voluntary patient.


Workplace Wellbeing: Refers to both how a person feels mentally and physically about themselves and their workplace. Factors that contribute to workplace wellbeing include:

  • workplace relationships
  • the level of work, expectations and physical demands of a job
  • the physical environment and equipment including lack of equipment provided
  • workplace culture and support
  • other lifestyle and individual factors




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