The definitions provided within the jargon buster have been developed and approved by young people for other young people.
The illegal or excessive use of something that can generate damaging consequence, such as sexual or substance abuse.
See also: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, substance use.
- Active monitoring
Active monitoring, or watchful waiting as it can also be called, is an approach which involves allowing some time to pass before any treatment is given. During the wait, more tests may be run and a professional will monitor the situation.
- Acute mental health
Acute mental health refers to mental health difficulties that are affecting the person in the here and now. Usually this includes or implies an element of risk to self or other that would require immediate attention and treatment. This is often used in contrast to chronic mental health difficulties that affect a person over time and are often more complex in terms of explanation and treatment.
Addiction is when you become dependent on a certain substance or action (such as drugs, alcohol or gambling) and struggle to control this habit. Usually this includes evidence of tolerance (needing more to get the same effect) and withdrawal (suffering when it is not available).
- Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA)
Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach (A-CRA) helps with alcohol or substance use. It helps young people to lead a healthy and enjoyable life without using alcohol or drugs. It can involve individual and family sessions with a therapist where goals are set and skills, such as communication or problem-solving, are practiced.
- Adolescent-focused psychotherapy
Adolescent-focused psychotherapy is a talking therapy for adolescents that can be used to help with a range of emotional, behavioural, psychological difficulties and disorders.
- Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where you try to control your body weight in a way that becomes obsessive or unhealthy. Symptoms may include losing weight quickly, counting calories in food, exercising too much and a fixation with body image. It can also cause symptoms such as trouble sleeping, growing a thin layer of hair all over your body, feeling irritable and not having periods. Although many see this as something that only women experience, 20% of people with anorexia are male, and men should equally seek support and treatment for it. A person can still have an eating disorder at any weight, they do not need to be underweight to be struggling. This is because it is more about the relationship they have with food in their mind; extreme weight loss is a common symptom but not the disorder itself.
Anxiety is a feeling we get that is similar to fear or worry that occurs when we are in a situation that is uncomfortable or threatening. An anxiety disorder is when you experience the symptoms of anxiety over a long period of time or in situations that are not/were not previously uncomfortable or threatening. Symptoms include feeling worried and tired all the time, fast or irregular heartrate, trouble sleeping and dizziness.
- Asperger's (or Asperger) syndrome
Asperger's falls on the autism spectrum (see: autism / autism spectrum disorder (ASD)) and is often used in the same way as the term high-functioning autism. Individuals with Asperger's can also experience difficulties in other areas typically associated with ASD such as social communication and learning, albeit to a lesser extent than individuals who have more severe forms of ASD.
An assessment is a professional view of a young person's needs, usually carried out by a child professional (eg: teachers, social workers or therapists) to determine the nature of a young person's difficulties and the possible forms to help or treatment options.
More info: Working with services
More info: Understanding referrals
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that can cause difficulties in paying attention, sitting still, and general impulsiveness. People with ADHD can have trouble staying concentrated, staying quiet, or thinking before they act.
For more information about this and support resources, visit www.adhdfoundation.org.uk.
Attachment is the emotional bond that develops between a child and their parent or guardian as they grow up. It starts at birth, when an infant is dependent on them for survival. The strength of this relationship determines the coping mechanisms the child needs in order to thrive. This attachment experience is believed to shape the development of the child's personality, in particular their sense of security, which has an impact on future relationships.
- Attachment-based family therapy (ABFT)
Attachment-based family therapy is a talking therapy where the therapist aims to support a child's relationship with their parent in order too nurture an emotionally secure attachment (see: attachment).
- Auditory integration training
If someone has, for example, autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they might hear sounds at a different frequency, which can be unpleasant and make it harder to focus. Auditory integration training can help with that – it was invented by Dr Alfred Tomatis, who adapted electronically modified music by Mozart to reduce distorted hearing or sensitivity to particular frequencies.
Autism is a developmental disorder in which a young person has trouble understanding the world around them. This can include struggling with talking, understanding the meanings of words, making friends or dealing with changes. The autism spectrum is very broad, and ranges from high functioning (the person does not struggle performing day-to-day tasks) to low functioning (the person needs assistance with everyday tasks).
For more information about autism, its impact at different ages and for support, visit www.autism.org.uk/about.aspx
See also: autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
ASD stands for autism spectrum disorder (see: autism). The spectrum includes autism and Asperger's (see: Asperger's).
It should be noted that ASD is not a mental illness but can increase the risk of mental illness in those with a diagnosis of ASD.
- Behaviour therapy
Behaviour therapy describes therapy that aims to resolve mental ill health that is causing destructive or unhealthy behaviours by changing learned behaviour.
Bibliotherapy is a therapy that uses books to help young people understand their difficulties and cope better with them. This can involve looking at stories and poems and discussing an individual's thoughts on the content and the ways it relates to their own life.
- Binge eating
Binge eating is acting on a strong urge to consume large amounts of food in one sitting, and often affects people with bulimia (see: bulimia).
- Bipolar disorder
Bipolar disorder is a disorder that causes extreme changes in mood. A person with bipolar disorder may cycle between periods of being unhelpfully 'high' (grandiose, euphoric, and impulsive) known as 'mania', and other periods of depression. Usually these episodes last for days or weeks rather than changing hour by hour.
- Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person worries about flaws they see in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a disorder in which a person's mood, self-image and behaviours often switch, which can result in impulsivity and trouble with relationships. Symptoms can include mood swings, self-harming behaviour and suicidal thoughts or threats.
Might also be known as emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).
See also: emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).
Bulimia is a mental illness which can make people feel like they don't have control over their eating or food habits. People who have bulimia tend to eat a lot of food at once (binging) and then try get rid of it quickly (purging), this could be by throwing up, using laxatives or doing a lot of exercise.
Bullying is when a group or individual inflicts sustained physical or emotional harm on another group or individual.
Bullying can involve physical violence, but also takes the form of verbal harrassment and abuse, such as name-calling, mockery or slurs. This can take place in person or online (see: cyber-bullying). It is also considered bullying when someone is consistently ignored or excluded in social situations, isolating them from their peers.
- Callous-unemotional traits
Callous–unemotional traits describe a pattern of behaviour that show a general disregard for other people and absence or very limited experience of feelings like empathy and guilt. These traits are linked with an increase risk of the person behaving in an antisocial way and of developing mental health difficulties.
- Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are the NHS services that assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties. There are four tiers of CAMHS services:
Tier one CAMHS at this level are provided by practitioners who are not mental health specialists; this can include school nurses, teachers and social workers. They will be able to offer general advice and treatment for less severe problems and refer to more specialist services.
Tier two People at this level tend to be CAMHS specialists; this can include psychologists and counsellors working in GP practices, schools and youth services. They can offer consultation to families to identify severe needs which require more specialist interventions.
Tier three People at tier three provide a specialised service for children and young people with more severe and persistent disorders, e.g., child and adolescent psychiatrists, social workers and clinical psychologists.
Tier four These are services for children and young people with the most serious problems. These can include secure eating disorders units and other specialist teams, usually serving more than one district or region.
More info: Receiving support
More info: Understanding referrals
- Care plan
A care plan sets out how your care and support needs will be met. This includes what treatment you need, who will be carrying out the treatment and what you want the outcome to be.
A carer is a person who looks after someone who is struggling with a disorder, addiction, mental health problem or a disability. This could be a parent or guardian, sibling, other family member, partner or friend.
Children and young people can also be carers, sometimes without realising, for family or friends who are ill, disabled or misuse drugs or alcohol.
- Child-parent psychotherapy (CPP)
Child-parent psychotherapy (CPP) is a talking therapy attended by a child (aged 0–5) and their parent or guardian. It focuses on building and maintaining a healthy relationship between them, and working on any issues that have affected the child's development, such as trauma.
- Clinical psychologist
A clinical psychologist is a psychologist who has been trained about mental health difficulties and who works specifically in a clinical mental health setting, such as a hospital or therapy centre.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy which focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. Its aim is to teach you how to cope with problems through changing the way that you think about them.
Comorbidity is when two illnesses occur at the same time – some disorders have a high rate of existing together, such as anxiety and depression.
Most commonly this is used to describe the co-occurance of a mental health problem with a substance use problem. Comorbidity frequently complicates the treatment of mental health difficulties.
- Computerised CBT
Computerised CBT is a programme of therapy that can be carried out on the computer, guiding you through the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy.
See: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
- Conduct / oppositional defiant disorder
Conduct defiant disorder or oppositional defiant disorder is a pattern of negative, defiant or hostile behaviour towards parents, guardians or authority figures. This is often a symptom of abuse, neglect or an emotionally insecure attachment (see: attachment).
Confidentiality, when seeking professional (e.g., medical or social) help, refers to the personal information that a client provides to helping professionals must remain private and not be shared with anyone else without the consent of the client. Confidentiality can never be absolute where there are safeguarding concerns.
More info: Know your rights
More info: Privacy
Connectedness is a feeling of belonging and a sense of being understood and cared for. Humans are social animals and isolation and exclusion are strongly associated with mental health difficulties.
Consent means giving permission for something to happen, for example, a course of action or treatment. Consent is usually given by patients themselves, and they will be given as much information as possible to help with their decision.
More info: Know your rights
More info: Privacy
- Coping Power Program
Coping Power Program is a programme of therapy designed to support young people who are aggressive or displaying aggressive behaviour in learning how to cope with and manage their emotions, improving both their behaviour and mood.
A counsellor is a person trained to help you with personal or psychological problems. They use structured ways of listening and talking that help a person to clarify their own understanding of what has happened to them and how they have, or wish to, respond.
Counsellors work in lots of different settings, such as in schools (a guidance counsellor), in a hospital or over the phone (such as the Samaritans).
A crisis is a situation that requires change. In mental health, this often takes the form of suicidal urges or having thoughts of seriously hurting yourself or others, but it could also be the feeling that you are at a breaking point in what you can cope with. Crises are rarely pleasant but they can be the opportunity for real and positive change.
If you or someone you know is currently going through a crisis, you can visit our Urgent help page that will show you your options and how to contact someone that can help you.
Cyber-bullying is bullying that takes place online. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to experiencing cyber-bullying on social media platforms.
See also: bullying.
- Children and young people (CYP)
Children and young people (CYP) may be used to describe a particular treatment or service designed for young people to use.
- Children and Young People's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP IAPT)
The Children and Young People's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (CYP IAPT) programme aims to improve child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Data Protection Act 2018
The Data Protection Act 1998 is the law regarding all personal information stored by any organisation. More recently the GDPR 2018 (General Data Protection Regulation) has superseded this. The law limits who can have access to your records and makes sure that your confidentiality is suitably protected.
More info: Know your rights
More info: Receiving support
A delusion is a mistaken belief that is held with strong conviction even in the presence of evidence to the contrary. For example, the idea that someone else is putting thoughts in your mind.
Depression is an illness that can cause a range of both mental and physical symptoms. Many people will experience feelings of unhappiness, hopelessness and anxiety, and may also experience feelings of constant tiredness, low appetite and bodily aches.
Depression, whilst difficult to go through, is common and can be treated using a range of different therapies and medication (depending on the severity of the condition). The most important thing to remember is that although depression can make you feel as though you're completely alone, thousands of other people in the UK are going through similar experiences.
For support and people to talk to, please visit Friends in need.
More info: Facing Shadows Animation
In April 2015, seven young people who had been to a child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) for help with their depression came together, with the aim of making a short, animated film about what it is like to suffer from depression as a teenager.
WARNING: This video may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.
- Developmental trauma
Developmental trauma describes childhood trauma that has affected development, leading to emotional, cognitive and physical difficulties. Adverse childhood experiences can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
See also: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma.
- Designated safeguarding lead (DSL)
Designated safeguarding lead (DSL) is one term used to describe the person who has overall responsibility for managing an organisation's systems for ensuring that its safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults is fit for purpose. Other terms used include designated senior person/child protection officer.
A diagnosis is a structured way of describing a cluster of symptoms and signs that a person describes or demonstrates, usually when they are asking for help. It is a shorthand way of describing conditions or illnesses that helps professionals to research what works for whom, and to give explanations for why a problem is occurring, and to offer evidence-based approaches to help.
More info: About diagnosis
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM)
Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM) – a complete list of mental health illnesses with detailed descriptions of the signs and symptoms that must be present for a diagnosis to be made. The DSM is mainly used in America, and the international equivalent is the International classification of diseases (ICD).
- Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)
Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a therapy that helps you to accept that you can’t always change difficult thoughts or feelings and gives you ways to cope with them.
Discharge is when treatment has been completed and a person leaves the hospital or centre that they were being treated in.
- Early intervention
Early intervention is when mental health problems are identified and treated in their early stage; this can reduce the impact of a disorder.
- Eating disorders
An eating disorder is when you have an unhealthy attitude or behaviour towards food, which can take over your life and make you ill. A person can still have an eating disorder while they are a healthy weight, because it is determined by the relationship they have with food in their mind – this often goes on to cause physical side effects such as weight gain or loss.
- Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse can include name-calling, shouting, emotional invalidation (such as putting someone down, ignoring someone, making them feel uncomfortable or as though they don't belong), controlling someone, exposing someone to dangerous or upsetting situations, or making someone take responsibility for things they shouldn't have to do until they're older.
Emotions are the way we show how we feel inside. We might do this with words, how we look and how we behave. Sometimes the emotions we show match how we feel inside and sometimes they are used to cover up our feelings e.g., putting on a brave face when we feel sad.
Emotions might also be referred to as 'everyday feelings'. These are emotions that we may experience every day, both good and bad, in response to what is happening in life. That is not to say that 'everyday feelings' can not be strong and large at times but that these feelings don't stop us from living our everyday lives. Experiencing both good and bad emotions is part of good mental health.
For more information about everyday feelings, you can watch our We all have mental health animation below:
- Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD)
Emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD) is a disorder in which a person's mood, self-image and behaviours often switch, which can result in impulsivity and trouble with relationships. Symptoms can include mood swings, self-harming behaviour and suicidal thoughts or threats.
Might also be known as borderline personality disorder (BPD).
See: borderline personality disorder (BPD).
To empower someone is to help them recognise and apply their own existing strength and authority to do something; this is an especially valuable principle in working with young people to encourage and remind them of the power they have to do what they want in life.
The Lingo booklet was co-produced by a Young Champion and staff at the Centre and provides insights in to the experiences of young people when talking to adults and professionals about their mental health. For more details about our Young Champions and the work they are involved in, please click on Get involved.
- Environmental modifications
Environmental modifications means changing the way you live and adding structure or support that helps you manage your symptoms. For example, a parent or professional might help you to organise your day, introducing a routine that you can rely on and a schedule that you can check. They might teach you how to use checklists, give you reminders to stick to your list, and help reduce any distractions. This could mean that your desk or workstation is modified to suit you better, that you can use a tool such as a fidget spinner, or that you can have extra time to complete tasks and regular breaks to move around.
- Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act is a law that states how everyone has equal opportunities and rights in society, regardless of disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. This is linked to the concept of social inclusion.
See also: social inclusion.
- Exposure response prevention (ERP) therapy
Exposure response prevention (ERP) is a form of CBT (see: cognitive behaviour therapy) which is often used in the treatment of OCD (see: obsessive compulsive disorder). It involves exposing yourself, with the help of a trained therapist, to the images, ideas or objects that 'trigger' your OCD. The therapist will then help you with your response prevention, which means learning exercises that help you avoid the obsessive or anxious behaviour that usually occurs after exposure.
- Evidence based
Any piece of information that has facts or evidence to back it up and confirm that it is true. Evidence-based practices or treatments will have been tried and tested to make sure they are effective and beneficial. However, it is important to remember that, even though they have evidence to back them up, a treatment may not always be useful for everyone and you have the right to talk about this with your mental health professional.
- Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment designed to help with the emotional distress that comes with having traumatic memories. It involves focusing on an external stimulus (often by making specific eye movements) while addressing the emotionally disturbing memories. This creates new associations in the brain, which can provide relief from the trauma.
- Family therapy
Family therapy is therapy that is focused on each member of the family's individual needs, and their relationships with other family members. It empowers families to help and support each other.
Flashbacks can take lots of different forms, for example, they might be sights, sounds or physical sensations. They generally give someone the sensation that they are re-living a particular experience, and it is often difficult to control when they might occur. They can be distressing and disorientating, and associated with traumatic memories.
- Food diary
A food diary can help you keep track of how the food you’re eating affects your mood and behaviour. For example, if you note down what you eat for your meals, as well as your mental and physical health each day, and notice that every time you eat tomatoes your symptoms get worse, you may have a sensitivity or allergy that is affecting your wellbeing. You could then try eliminating tomatoes to monitor whether your situation improves.
Formulation is a collaborative process between a therapist and a young person which may include a summary of:
- the main difficulties a young person experiences
- how both the young person and the professionals understand the difficulties
- how best to deal with the difficulties.
The formulation should list agreements, possible disagreements and issues that would benefit from clarification. A young person should hopefully feel involved and feel some ownership or at least agreement with the formulation.
- Functional family therapy
Functional family therapy focuses on helping families to overcome issues such as conduct and behavioural problems, substance abuse and violence. It promotes self-respect and respect for others, motivating individuals and their families to become integrated and adapted in their communities.
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
GDPR refers to the law regarding how all personal information is stored by any organisation. The law limits who can have access to your records and makes sure that your confidentiality is suitably protected.
More info: Know your rights
More info: Receiving support
- Gender dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is when a person feels a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity (e.g., a person born with male genitalia identifying as a woman). Some may choose to have hormone therapy or gender reassignment surgery, whereas others may choose to simply dress as the gender with which they identify.
- Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a long-term condition where feelings of anxiety (see: anxiety) occur regularly and in a wide range of situations. People with GAD may struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed because there is always something to worry about.
- Goals and goal based outcomes (GBOs)
Goals are what the person seeking help and the therapist want to achieve by working together in therapy. They should focus on what the person seeking help wants. Goals should be discussed and agreed collaboratively between the help seeker and the therapist at the start of therapy.
Goal based outcomes (GBOs) are a simple zero-to-ten scale that helps see if the therapy is helping to reach the goals set at the start of the therapy. They can help have a discussion about how well the therapy is going and if any changes might helpfully be made. More information can be found at www.goals-in-therapy.com
- Group therapy/Group work
Group therapy is a form of therapy in which patients meet to describe, discuss and work through their problems in groups. This will usually be the same group of people who come together and talk about things that are important to them, and also have some fun. There will usually be a mental health professional leading and facilitating the meetings.
- Habit reversal training (HRT)
Habit reversal training (HRT) is a treatment which aims to treat repetitive behaviours, such as hair pulling (trichotillomania) or skin picking (dermatillomania). It aims to increase a patient's awareness of the behaviour and develop a more comfortable response that can replace it.
Hallucination is when a person can see, hear, smell, taste, or feel something that other people cannot perceive. Most commonly, people describe hearing things or voices or seeing things. Usually hallucinations are understood as signs of significant mental illness, classically psychosis (see: psychosis), but they do occur occasionally in people who are well, often when they are drowsy. Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD are well known to cause hallucinations.
When a person is admitted to hospital for treatment.
More info: Inpatient care
Hypochondria describes an anxiety condition characterised by distressing worries about one's health, including a fear that professionals have missed an important diagnosis. It is often associated with other anxieties.
Hyperactivity is the state of being unusually active, which often makes it hard to stay still or concentrate. A hyperactive person may be restless and inattentive, which can make things difficult at school or home. Hyperactive behaviour can be aggressive and impulsive, putting a strain on friendships or family life. In some cases, hyperactivity is associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (see: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)).
- Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)
Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) is an NHS mental health service available to young people and adults. Adult IAPT is for over 18s although many services now start at 16.
IAPT services provides evidence-based treatments for people with anxiety and depression. Details of local IAPT services are available on the NHS website.
- Incredible Years (IY)
Incredible Years is a series of programmes for parents, children and teachers, aiming to prevent and treat behavioural problems in young people aged 3–12 years. The programme works to improve the relationship between parents and children, and focuses on a positive approach to parenting.
A patient who comes to a hospital or a centre for diagnosis or treatment that requires an overnight stay.
An intervention is anything that a professional or informal helper does with the intention of making a positive change to help a person who is struggling in some way. An intervention could range from a simple conversation to open-heart surgery. Health professionals have a duty to plan interventions that have some evidence of effectiveness.
- Intensive behaviour training (IBI)
Intensive behaviour training is a treatment is for children with autism and uses applied behaviour analysis. The course is conducted in the child's own home and teaches techniques that help to improve language and social skills, as well as decrease difficult behaviour. The course uses positive reinforcement to motivate the child, which can include providing things to eat, drink, watch or play with.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)
Interpersonal psychotherapy focuses on the way we interact with other people and how our relationships with other people can affect symptoms of depression.
- Interpersonal psychotherapy for adolescents (IPT-A)
Interpersonal psychotherapy (see: interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT)) that is made specifically for adolescents, and used as a treatment for young people with depression.
i-THRIVE stands for ‘implementing THRIVE’, in other words putting the THRIVE framework into practice. THRIVE itself is an integrated, person centred and needs led approach to delivering mental health services for children, young people and families which conceptualises need in five categories: thriving, getting advice, getting help, getting more help and getting risk support. Emphasis is placed on prevention and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing and clients are empowered to be actively involved in decisions about their care through shared decision making.
- Key worker
A key worker is a professional who is your main point of contact and will coordinate on your behalf with the other professionals you work with.
LGBTQ stands for 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer', while the '+' is inclusive of any other sexuality or gender that people may identify with. For a more detailed list of definitions, visit OK2BME.
- Life-skills interventions
Life-skills interventions are to help people with autism who need help with aspects of daily living, for example, a structured group leisure activity can be a good way of providing social support that is enjoyable. Or, for those who experience irritability or anger, a course can be arranged to help manage that and provide information on how to solve problems effectively and relax. Other skills might include CV writing, support to stay in employment, personal safety skills, personal care and practical living skills.
- Looked after children
Looked after children is a term used to refer to children and young people who live in local authority care with either foster carers or in a residential placement.
Mania is a state of heightened arousal, affect, and energy level. Mania is often thought of as the opposite to depression, the heightened mood can be either euphoric or irritable.
Some forms of mental illness can respond to treatment that includes the use of drugs (pharmaceutical medication). Medication can help with a wide range of conditions, including depression, psychosis, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. Medication alone is very rarely a 'quick fix' for mental health problems and is usually combined with talking therapy or other social interventions.
Medicine, in general terms, can describe the science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illnesses. It could also be used to describe medication (see: Medication).
More info: Receiving Support - About diagnosis
- Mentalization based treatment (MBT)
Mentalizing is the ability to understand our own thoughts and feelings and the thoughts and feelings of others. This sounds straightforward but is something that can be hard to do when feelings run high.
Mentalization based treatments use a mentalizing focus to develop an understanding of what we are experiencing and how this impacts on ourselves and on others.
Mentalization based treatment can be for individuals, families or groups depending on the need of the individual.
- Mental Capacity Act
The Mental Capacity Act exists to help those who lack the ability to make decisions for themselves (such as people suffering from brain injuries, dementia or a stroke). It contains strict protections for those people's rights and allows delegated authorities to make these decisions on their behalf.
More info: Know your rights
- Mental health
Mental health describes our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. It affects our thinking, moods and behaviours. Everyone has mental health, and it is normal for mental health to change during times of stress. Positive mental health does not mean always being happy, but feeling empowered to talk about, cope with and overcome the things we might encounter in life. That way, we recover from our downturns and learn to take care of our minds in the same way we do our bodies.
- Mental Health Act 1983
The Mental Health Act (1983) is the law that makes it possible for professionals to treat people with serious mental health problems against their will. It includes a range of protections for those people's rights and can only be applied under very specific circumstances, usually when there is a serious risk to the patient or other people, and when less restrictive ways of helping have been shown not to work.
More info: Know your rights
- Mental illness
Mental illness is when there are patterns in our mental health or behaviour that cause distress or prevent us from functioning in a healthy way. These might include a low mood that does not go away over time, thoughts or habits that we'd rather not have, or various other things that get in the way of our wellbeing.
There is support available if you need help with a mental illness. You could talk to a trusted adult, speak with your GP or consult the Youth Wellbeing Directory for a list of free services in your area.
Mindfulness can help us enjoy life more and pay better attention to the world around us, especially how we interact with it through our bodies. Mindfulness techniques and meditations are designed to awaken us to the sensations of the present moment, such as the sound of the birds or the feel of an object. The goal is that we are not caught up in the constant workings of our thoughts, and have more time to see the present moment clearly.
- Motivational interviewing
Motivational interviewing is a type of counselling that helps you find the motivation you need to change a particular behaviour. It is primarily used to treat addiction, or help patients to find ways to manage health conditions. It has an empathetic focus, taking into account how difficult these changes can be to make.
- Multicomponent interventions
Multicomponent interventions is when your intervention is made up of different types of treatment, designed to work together to have a greater overall effect on the issue you're experiencing.
- Multi-dimensional family therapy (MDFT)
Multi-dimensional family therapy (MDFT) is a treatment designed to help young people struggling with substance abuse, or antisocial or aggressive behaviours. These issues may stem from school or family problems, or come as a result of emotional difficulties. The treatment looks at the various dimensions that contribute to the problem and encourages participation from family members or collaborating professionals. A key part of the treatment is compassion on behalf of the therapist, who aims to motivate the young person and their caregivers to create a lasting change.
- Multi-disciplinary team (MDT)
A multi-disciplinary team, is a group of health care workers with different specialities working together towards a specific goal or to help a specific patient.
- Multi-treatment foster care (MTFC)
Multi-treatment foster care (MTFC) are foster placements that last between nine and 12 months and are tailored to the young person's specific needs. Intensive support is given, with the help of a multi-disciplinary team (see: multi-disciplinary team (MDT)) and a 24-hour programme supervisor. The foster family has been specially trained to reward good behaviour, and the placement promotes the forming of positive role models.
- Multi-systemic therapy (MST)
Multi-systemic therapy (MST) is an intensive family and community-based intervention for children and young people aged 11–17, where young people are at risk of being placed into care or custody due to behavioural problems, antisocial or aggressive behaviours. The goal is to break the cycle of antisocial behaviour and keep the young person safe.
- Neurocognitive functioning
Neurocognitive functioning refers to how particular areas, pathways and networks in our brains can affect or determine our thought processes, experiences and behaviours.
If someone identifies as neurodivergent, they mean that their brain functions in a way that’s different to what society typically deems ‘normal’.
Neurodiversity is the diversity in human brains and minds – the many natural variations in neurocognitive functioning within humans.
The neurodiversity movement is the concept that neurological differences should be recognised and respected by society instead of treated as disorders. These differences can include those labelled as: dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyscalculia, autistic spectrum, Tourette's syndrome, and others. The neurodiversity movement is an approach that argues that these neurological conditions are the result of natural, normal, and often useful variations in the human genome.
Neurodiversity advocates for society to be more accepting and inclusive of neurodivergent individuals, rather than make attempts to ‘cure’ these conditions. A body of people, such as a school or university, can be described as neurodiverse, to reflect the variety of different people who will all think in different ways.
Neurofeedback is a type of structured brain-training exercise that helps you to learn skills and functions through practice and feedback; your brain activity is monitored and compared to your targets, and you get a signal and reward when you meet the goal.
Neurotypical describes those whose neurocognitive functioning falls within society’s typical standards of ‘normal’.
- Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people attempt to manage their anxiety by having repeating thoughts (obsessions) or performing repeated actions (see: compulsions) that interfere with everyday life and are often in themselves distressing.
For more support and advice, please visit OCD Action.
Outcomes is the word used by services to describe whether an intervention is being useful to the client or young person. A good outcome is when the intervention is helpful and a poor outcome is when it is not.
More info: What constitutes a good outcome?
Two of the Centre's Young Champions, Juliette and Jummy, tell us about their experience of what makes a good outcome and how they would measure it.
- Outcome measures
Outcome measures are ways for measuring or recording the change in status of an individual, group or population. Outcome measures are used to try and understand the impact of an intervention. The measures can cover a range of issues, such as symptoms, how a person functions in their life or the goals they aim to achieve through treatment.
Outcome measures often take the form of a questionnaire and can be filled in by children, young people, parents, carers, practitioners, teachers or other mental health and wellbeing professionals.
For more information on outcome measures, please visit CORC and watch the below video.
An outpatient is a person who receives treatment in a hospital or centre without staying the night there.
- Panic attack
A panic attack can involve shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness and rapid heart rates. They indicate intense fear or anxiety, perhaps connected to a specific worry or circumstance, or as part of a general panic disorder.
- Panic disorder
Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterised by episodes of quite sudden, intense fear or panic. Symptoms may include, shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, strange sensations, and rapid heart rates.
See also: anxiety.
- Parent child interaction therapy (PCIT)
During parent child interaction therapy (PCIT) a therapist will usually observe a parent and child interacting through play, and teach parents to apply certain therapy skills. The parent or caregiver will use these skills at home, and this helps young children struggling with emotional or behavioural disorders because the parent-child relationship improves.
- Parent training
Parent training teaches parents the skills they need to improve their children's wellbeing and behaviour, particularly through the use of positive reinforcement (see: positive reinforcement).
- Peer mentoring
Peer mentoring is when someone who has lived through a specific experience acts as a helping hand, a listener and someone who can support another child or young person with making positive changes. A peer mentor supports their mentee on a one-to-one basis. A peer supporter works with children and young people on a one-to-one or group basis.
- Peer support
Peer support is when people use their experiences to help each other. It can take place in community or support groups, through mentoring or befriending, via online communities and more.
- Personality disorder
A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have an unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. It may affect the way you think about yourself and others, the way you respond emotionally, how you relate to other people or how you control your behaviour.
- Person-centred care
Person-centred care is when patients actively participate in their own medical treatment in close cooperation with the healthcare professionals, who make purposeful efforts to understand the problem from the perspective of the patient in combination with their own perspective and expertise about diagnosis and treatment.
- Personal information
Personal information is information about a person such as their name, age, address, medical conditions, etc. This information should be kept private under General Data Protection Regulations (see: General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR)) and only be accessed by those authorised to do so.
More info: Privacy
A phobia is an extreme fear of a place, object, person or situation. The main symptom is avoidance (which might be quite extreme). Exposure to the feared situation can include nausea, shaking or dizziness. Phobias are the most common type of anxiety disorder and can be treated using a variety of different therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (see: cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)) or exposure therapy.
- Physical abuse
Physical abuse is when someone causes intentional injury or trauma to someone else through bodily contact. It isn't an accident, and may happen frequently. It is common for children to be told that it is their fault or that they deserve it as a punishment, but this is not the case. Nothing you do makes you deserving of harm and abuse is never your fault.
Pica is the persistent eating of substances or materials that have no nutritional value, such as hair or dirt. It may be a symptom of another disorder, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (see: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)).
- Positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is the rewarding of good behaviour with a positive outcome, which makes it more likely that the good behaviour will happen again.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by traumatic events (such as severe injury or life threating accidents). A person with PTSD may experience difficulties with the memory (e.g., intruding through flashbacks or nightmares), active avoidance (e.g., of thinking or talking about it) and traumatic dysregulation (e.g., not being able to concentrate, not being able to sleep, always being on the look out, being more jumpy, being more irritable). The event is often relived through flashbacks or nightmares, and the person may also experience feelings of isolation and trouble sleeping. People who have experience of war or conflict may be at increased risk of developing PTSD.
See also: trauma.
- Problem solving programmes
Problem solving programmes are usually a series of sessions, lasting between 10–18 weeks, which help you to understand the relationship between behaviour and consequences, slowing down snap decisions and, instead, making you aware of and able to recognise your emotional state. It should also equip you to identify problems and choose appropriate solutions, as well as reflect on how it went.
- Protective factors
Protective factors shield children from risks to their mental health and wellbeing and can decrease their chances of becoming mentally unwell. Amongst other influences, protective factors can come from the individual child (temperament, intelligence, etc.), their family, their community or their school.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has specialised in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental illnesses.
Psychoanalysis is a form of talking therapy that encourages you to talk more freely about your experiences and feelings (a psychoanalyst will also be interested in unpacking your memories and dreams).
- Psychoanalytic parent-infant psychotherapy (PPIP)
Psychoanalytic parent-infant psychotherapy (PPIP) is aimed at parents with babies or toddlers who are at risk of developing an insecure attachment (see: attachment). The parent and child attend the sessions together and a therapist helps them to form a secure emotional bond.
- Psychodynamic psychotherapy
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is a form of therapy that is based on the assumption that patterns of thought and behaviour are based on past, often unconscious, experiences. The therapy aims to increase the patient’s self-awareness and self-knowledge which can lead to change.
- Psychoeducation therapy (PET)
Psychoeducation therapy (PET) is the process of giving education and information to those seeking or using mental health services. It helps people understand their mental health and how to get the best out of a therapy or medication.
Psychologist is usually a shorthand way of describing a clinical psychologist. These are professionals trained to use psychological assessments, treatments, and interventions to help people with mental health difficulties. They often hold a significant authority in teams. Some will focus on more brain-based (physical) explanations, whereas others will emphasise thoughts, feelings and the sense that people make of themselves and the world.
A psychotic episode is when a person loses touch with reality. They might hear voices, see or feel things that aren't there (see: hallucination), feel paranoid or believe things that don't rationally make sense (see: delusions). In addition, there may be effects on their ability to think logically and to communicate coherently. This could be a symptom of a disorder such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but can also be linked to drugs and extreme stress.
For further help and support, please see Young Minds
Psychosocial refers to an individual's psychological development in and interaction with their social environment. Psychosocial treatments take many forms, and can include counselling, care-coordination, psychotherapy or relapse prevention.
Psychotherapy is a talking therapy that is used as a treatment for a range of mental illnesses.
Questionnaires are often used by child mental health services to help children and young people understand things like their own mental health and wellbeing, the impact it's having on their life or their experience of the treatment or service they receive. The aim of a questionnaire is normally to improve the quality of care or understand how care is helping the child or young person.
For examples of some of the questionnaires or measures you might be asked to complete, please visit CORC.
Recovery is commonly thought to mean the return to a healthy state of mind in a person who has been unwell. However, recovery is a complicated idea; recovery according to whose terms? For people with chronic or lifelong difficulties, emphasis on recovery can be experienced as exclusionary. It is important that any definition of recovery comes from exploration as to what that means for the individual concerned. Often, recovery is seen as more as a journey than a moment in time.
Rehabilitation is the process of getting yourself back to normal functioning after struggling with illness or addiction. This is done through work and therapy, usually in a specialised centre or with support from outreach services.
- Resilience training
Resilience training or self-management, as it is also known, are strategies and techniques to help you manage your condition and the things life throws at us all, both by yourself and with other people's support.
Risks increase the chances of mental health difficulties developing. They can be linked to differences in a child's character as well as exposure to harmful experiences, environments or events.
Safeguarding refers to the responsibility of professionals to make sure you are safe.
Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness characterised by psychosis (hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder) which may be lifelong. Many cases first emerge in adolescence and most appear before the mid-thirties. Treatment usually involves a mixture of medication, psychological and social interventions.
Schizophrenia is one of the most misunderstood mental illnesses – for more help understanding what it is and what it means, visit the Royal College of Psychiatrists' website.
See also: psychosis, hallucinations, and delusions.
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that usually happens in the winter, and is thought to be related to the lack of sunlight.
See also: depression.
The word 'sectioned' comes from the fact that people can be hospitalised according to different 'sections' of the Mental Health Act. Sectioning can be voluntary or compulsory, and means that a patient is admitted to hospital while they recover from mental illness. See also: Mental Health Act (1983)
More info: Know your rights
More info: Inpatient care
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant medication. They are mainly used to treat depression or anxiety.
Self-harm involves deliberately causing harm to yourself, either by causing a physical injury, or failing to take care of yourself (such as through neglecting your health or putting yourself in dangerous situations).
- Self-care / Self-help
Self-care or self-help refers to ways in which a person can help themselves recover or maintain a good level of mental and physical health, e.g., eating healthier foods, exercising on a regular basis and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
Self-management or resilience training, as it is also known, are strategies and techniques to help you manage your condition and the things life throws at us all, both by yourself and with other people's support.
- Service feedback measures
Service feedback measures – also referred to as experience measures – collect information from those receiving help about how they found it. This may include information from a parent, child, young person, professional or other, about their experience of an individual session, the therapist or the organisation as a whole.
- Service user
A service user is a person that uses the advice or services of an institution, e.g., the NHS.
Sexuality refers to a person's sexual orientation or preference (see: LGBTQ+). This is not the same as a person's gender.
See also: gender.
Students at the University of Glasgow have created this It Gets Better video as part of the global It Gets Better Project.
- Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is any type of sexual contact that is unwanted. The abuser often uses violence, threat or manipulation, and usually already knows the victim in some way. It is also important to know that nobody under the age of 16 can consent to sexual activity, therefore any sexual acts with people under that age is illegal. Sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim in any way and should always be reported.
Shared decision making is when health professionals work with individuals to help them make decisions about their care or treatment that feel most right for them.
Signposting is when you get given information about a service or services which might be able to help.
More info: Youth Wellbeing Directory
- Single point of access (SPA)
Single point of access (SPA) is the part of a service which decides which department needs to look at your referral.
- Sleep plans
Getting to sleep can be really difficult, particularly for those with an autism diagnosis. As part of a sleep plan, sleep may be monitored to rule out any triggers or physical ailments that are affecting sleep. A sleep schedule may also be established, as this can help to provide structure around going to bed, for example, putting on pyjamas, brushing teeth, using the toilet, washing hands, getting in bed, reading or being read to, shutting off the light. This schedule can be shown as a visual checklist to help you get used to the plan, and if any changes need to be made, you can think about this in advance.
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is a long-lasting and overwhelming fear of social situations. For example, symptoms can include avoiding or worrying about social activities, such as meeting new people, eating in a group or going to a party.
Social Effectiveness Therapy for Children (SET-C) is a therapy that helps children and young people feel more comfortable in social situations. It involves group work and activities.
Social inclusion attempts to make all groups of people within society feel equal and included, regardless of race, gender, class or sexual orientation. This involves their access to healthcare, education and employment.
Social information processing (SIP) is a theory that looks at how we interact with each other online or using technology, such as via email, text, and instant messaging.
Social skills training (SST) helps to improve social skills, which means the way we interact with other people. Examples of social skills include eye contact, smiling, understanding how other people are feeling and expressing how you are feeling.
Stress describes the feelings we get when we are struggling to cope with a situation. Sometimes stress is a normal, healthy reaction to an external pressure, but at other times it can become overwhelming and difficult to manage. Physical symptoms of stress can include headaches, an increased heart rate, or an upset stomach. There are many ways of coping with stress including taking care of yourself, talking to someone about managing the cause of your stress, and therapy.
A stigma is usually the negative way in which society perceives something. Mental illness has carried a stigma for years, but luckily as time goes on and more people speak up, the stigma surrounding struggling with mental health or seeking help is diminishing.
Stimulants is a term that can apply to medicinal or recreational drugs. In a medical context, they might be prescribed to treat sleep, mood or impulse control disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (see: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)). In a recreational context, they can be referred to as 'uppers' and are used for a temporary lift in energy or mood. Stimulants should only be taken if prescribed by a medical professional.
See also: medicine.
More info: About diagnosis
- Substance use
Substance use is the use of drugs, such as alcohol or marijuana, for recreational purposes. It can lead to addiction or emotional and physical distress.
Suicide refers to the act of taking one's life voluntarily and intentionally. It is important to avoid ever using the phrase 'commit suicide' as this implies that it is a crime which it has not been for decades now.
If you or someone you know are feeling suicidal and need to speak to someone, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123.
- Suicide prevention programmes
Suicide prevention programmes are designed to support someone who is at risk of suicide or feels like they want to die. The programme aims to keep the person safe from harm.
- Systemic therapy
Systemic therapy is another way of describing family therapy, which focuses on each member of the family's individual needs, and their relationships with other family members. It empowers families to help and support each other (see: family therapy).
- Therapeutic foster care
Therapeutic foster care is when foster parents are trained to provide therapeutic care for young people who may have experienced neglect or trauma, and have more complex emotional needs.
Theraplay is a special therapy designed to help build relationship and trust with those who care for us (usually parents) and increase self-esteem. It is based on the natural patterns of play and designed to be enjoyable and positive.
THRIVE is an integrated, person centred and needs led approach to delivering mental health services for children, young people and families which conceptualises need in five categories; thriving, getting advice, getting help, getting more help and getting risk support. Emphasis is placed on prevention and the promotion of mental health and wellbeing and clients are empowered to be actively involved in decisions about their care through shared decision making.
- Tier 1 CAMHS
CAMHS at this level are provided by practitioners who are not mental health specialists; this can include school nurses, teachers and social workers. They will be able to offer general advice and treatment for less severe problems and refer to more specialist services.
See also: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Tier 2 CAMHS
People at this level tend to be CAMHS specialists; this can include psychologists and counsellors working in community settings, such as GP practices, schools and youth services. They can offer early psychological interventions and/or consultation to families or other professionals to identify severe needs which may require more specialist interventions.
See also: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Tier 3 CAMHS
People at tier three provide a specialised, multi-professional, CAMHS service for children and young people with more severe and persistent disorders, e.g., child and adolescent psychiatrists, social workers, therapists, and clinical psychologists. Tier three services are mainly based in outpatient clinic settings.
See also: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Tier 4 CAMHS
These are services for children and young people who present risks that cannot be safely contained through outpatient treatment alone. These include inpatient psychiatric services, eating disorders units as well as other specialist intensive outreach teams, usually serving more than one district or region.
See also: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
- Tourette's syndrome
Tourette's syndrome is a condition that causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics.
- Transition plan
A transition plan is a plan made with a young person, CAMHS (see: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)), and adult services for those turning 18 who will leave CAMHS and go on to adult mental health services (AMHS).
Trauma is a state caused by an event/series of events that overwhelms an individual and leaves them unable to process or cope with what has happened. Trauma comes from the Greek word 'wound' and it can be caused by a one-off occurrence, such as a natural disaster or a violent encounter, or by long-term and recurring experiences, such as abuse. It can be caused by the actual event itself or the reaction to an event.
PTSD is a result of trauma and can be worked on through talking therapies. See also: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Please note that the word trauma is used in physical health too but that does not mean that every hospital trauma service will know how to respond or help with psychological trauma.
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT)
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (TF-CBT) aims to teach you how to deal with problems associated directly with trauma. TF-CBT should, amongst other things:
- include psychoeducation about reactions to trauma, strategies for managing arousal and safety planning
- involve elaboration and processing of the trauma memories
- involve restructuring trauma-related meanings for the individual
- provide help to overcome avoidance.
- Treatment as usual (TAU)
Treatment as usual (TAU) means that the usual and accepted treatment will be given.
This is part of a CAMHS (see: child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)) service that makes a decision about what will happen to your referral. This may involve the service asking for additional information.
- Trigger warnings
Trigger warnings can be issued at the beginning of content that might be upsetting or distressing to people watching, reading, or experiencing it. They are there to warn people that the content might cause a strong emotional reaction, and to proceed carefully.
- Triple P – Positive Parenting Program
Triple P – Positive Parenting Program is designed to support families and prevent or treat emotional and behavioural problems in children and teenagers. Sometimes the programme is adapted to suit families with specific needs, but generally it focuses on developing positive relationships and attitudes towards others.
- Voluntary sector
The voluntary sector includes local charities that can provide help or information for young people.
To find local services in your area, please visit the Youth Wellbeing Directory.
- Watchful waiting
Watchful waiting or active monitoring, as it is also known, is an approach which involves allowing some time to pass before any treatment is given. During the wait, more tests may be run and a professional will monitor the situation.
A state of being comfortable, healthy and happy. This includes both physical and mental wellbeing which are equally important.
- Wellbeing Passport
The Wellbeing Passport is used by children & young people who are offered an assessment. Its purpose is so you don't have to keep telling your story over and over to different professionals and agencies.
To see an electronic copy of the Passport you can click the following link: Wellbeing Passport.
This section was developed by Bella, Libby and the Centre's Young Champions and reviewed by the Centre's staff and clinicians.
If there are any words or terms you believe are missing or you would like to submit a definition, please email YouthWellbeing@annafreud.org