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Terminology and focus

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Mental Health Coordinating Council acknowledge the differences in the language and terminology used across the mental health, health, disability and alcohol and other drugs sectors, Across many disciplines, mental health practitioners and workers quite confusingly use different terminology and forms of expression, Throughout this Manual we have endeavoured to be consistent but sensitive to language used in a particular context. Nevertheless, for the purpose of necessity, in several sections of the Manual, we have been obliged to use specific terms because they have a particular meaning in that context. An example of this is in relation to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), where use of the word “patient” rather than “consumer” or “person with lived experience” is used to refer to a person cared for and treated under the Act. This is because in this situation, people are patients of the NSW Health Service and are described in this way in the legislation.

Some people living with mental health conditions may, at some stage in their lives, find themselves in hospital, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and may be subject to treatment orders under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW). When this happens, they are considered to be a person either with ‘mental illness’, or a ‘mental disorder’ under the Act. Therefore, throughout this Manual we use the term “people who are mentally ill” in reference to a person who is a patient under the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) or the Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020 (NSW). Elsewhere we use the term “person living with a mental health condition” in broader reference to people who experience some form of ‘psychiatric condition’ or have been diagnosed with a condition. We also use terms where used in policy, standards and guidelines and by services describing their programs, etc. We also use the term “psychosocial disability” or “people with lived experience” in some contexts to refer to people living with mental health conditions who may experience difficulties in their interactions with the social environment because of the barriers to their equal participation in society and the discrimination that exists in that environment.

There is a glossary of Key Terms used in the Manual in Appendix 1.

There is also a simplified overview of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) provided in this Manual (in Chapter 4).

The purpose of the 5th Edition of the Manual is to bring together, in one resource, the diverse set of mechanisms, services and systems that support people living with mental health conditions, their families, carers and supporters, including the workforce across multiple service systems. This includes the interrelated issues in relation to the care and treatment, employment, housing health and disability rights and the participatory and civil rights of people living with mental health conditions to fully participate in society as parents, partners, employees, community members and leaders.

Whilst the Mental Health Coordinating Council takes a leadership role in promoting legislative reform and policy development in the mental health sector and related areas, this Manual does not seek to advocate about the law or mental health policy, it merely informs the reader about the status of the law and policy as it currently stands and present realistic ways in which people can exert their rights and meet their obligations.

However, the Mental Health Coordinating Council in its work as a peak body strives to contribute to a system in which the status, independence and human rights of people living with mental health conditions, families, carers and support persons is advanced. Its aim is to promote recovery and assist people to maintain or return to active participation in the community and live meaningful lives on their terms, in spite of their mental health conditions. We are committed to ongoing communication with government agencies about the efficacy and outcomes of legislation and policies currently in place with regards to mental health and co-existing conditions.

MHCC’s discussions with members and with government are published regularly in policy and position statements and submissions that are freely available through the Mental Health Coordinating Council’s website at:

Updated June 30, 2021