Language and definition of mental health

Collaboratively all services should develop and work with an agreed definition of mental health and related terminology. It is often the confusion about the language used in talking about mental health that alienates children and their families and makes them wary of accessing services.

Developing age appropriate explanations of mental health and mental health problems will go a long way to encouraging people to talk about mental health freely and will consequently assist in the pursuit of non-stigmatising services. Children and families’ involvement in developing a shared understanding of mental health terminology will provide a sound base from which to launch programmes to promote mental health awareness and challenge stigma. It will also ensure that children and their families are engaged in the journey to tackle stigma from the very start.



Methods for successfully developing definitions of mental health

It is not challenging to find definitions of mental health, as there are a number of good examples that may be used. The challenge lies in agreeing the terminology to be used in any one area, especially around the words and terms used to talk about mental health, CAMHS and emotional wellbeing.

The best way to do this is to work with young people and their families, professionals and stakeholders. Everybody should sign up to the agreed definitions and they should be publicised and used consistently across all partners.



Case study: Common language for mental wellbeing

The project in Walsall has agreed a common language for mental wellbeing through active participation with children and young people across the borough.

This was achieved through holding a stakeholder event that 34 schools attended representing children from various backgrounds: looked after children, children with disabilities, children with special education needs (SEN), and children in other challenging circumstances. The broad aims of these events was to give an opportunity for partnership working and to engage stakeholders in describing the services required to improve emotional health and wellbeing outcomes in children and young people. During the consultation event delegates were presented with a range of definitions of mental health and wellbeing.

The New Economics Foundation (NEF) definition attracted the approval of the highest number of the delegates and was the one which they felt accurately captured the holistic nature of wellbeing and was easy to understand.

Learn more from the Walsall pilot site

Case study: Liverpool – NOISE/Music 2 Inclusion project

This intervention is in the planning stages and involves members of the children and young people’s Board in the production of radio jingles capturing the appropriate language of mental health.

Read the full case study in the Liverpool pilot site section.



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