Mental health terms can be a bit daunting and confusing sometimes. As with all areas of research and knowledge, it has it's own language and ways of communicating things. Take a look below for words and terminology that we use often to find out what they mean. 


Feeling anxious at times is part of everyone's life, but as a mental ill health disorder anxiety goes beyond feeling nervous about a job interview, or stressed during a busy period at work. Anxiety disorders affect people's wellbeing over time and can negatively impact their everyday life. Anxiety can become irrational and people can experience panic attacks and anxious symptoms for no reason, or experience physical, emotional and psychological responses that are not warranted or helpful in everyday situations.  Diagnoses include generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. 


Dementia is a broad term that describes a range of progressive neurological disorders. Each person with dementia will experience it in their own way. There are many types of dementia that people can be affected by and some people can experience a combination of types of dementia. Symptoms can include difficulty in making new memories and retaining information. People with dementia can get lost in familiar surroundings and have trouble recalling names and faces. Tasks that require concentration can be very difficult. Dementia can affect communication by causing people to have mood swings , anxiety, depression, and personality changes. Words may be difficult to recall and social interest can be lost. Conversations can be tiring and difficult and extroverted people can become more introverted and quiet.  Find out more on our Dementia section


Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. It can cause severe and varying symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and go about daily activities, such as  your sleeping patterns, eating habits, work life, and social life . To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. People can live with depression for a long time with depression before seeking treatment, but thankfully there are treatment options and support available. 

Mental Health:

Mental health refers to a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being. Everyone has mental health, good or bad, just as we have physical health. 

Mental Illness:

This term refers to a range of  conditions that negatively affect a person's mental health. Mental illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and stress can affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Mental ill health is very common and often a wide range of treatment options are available. 


By ‘recovery’ we mean being able to move on from a position where a person’s mental ill health can dictate their quality of life and their dependency upon the services that support them, to living independently with the confidence in themselves and the networks around them to make choices about the type of life they wish to lead. Their choices could include further education, training, employment opportunities, participating in and contributing to their local communities. Find out more with our Recovery section.

Self-Directed Support:

Self-directed Support, or SDS, is a new system of delivering social care services is based on legislation that came into force on April 1st 2014, the Social Care (Self-Directed Support) (Scotland) Act 2013. We are presently in the transition stage, moving from the old system into the new one, i.e. SDS. This means that some people still access social care services using the old system, but they also can choose to access support through SDS. Find out more with our SDS section.


As a way to cope with intense, anger, sadness and other distressing emotional states, some people injure themselves by deliberately harming the surface of their body, often through cutting of burning. This is typically not a suicide attempt, but rather as way to 'release' emotions and cope with mental illness.  


Self-stigma occurs when people internalise negative societal attitudes and sterotypes, suffering consequences that some people say are worse than the mental illness itself. Self-stigma can be characterised by feelings of shame about the condition, low self-esteem, unwillingness to seek help and even a lack of believing that help and recovery is deserved or possible.


Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, Ph.D.  defines stigma as "A perceived negative attribute that causes someone to devalue or think less of the whole person.” Individuals experiencing mental ill health can experience stigma, usually caused by a lack of understanding by society and a lack of awareness about mental illness. Stigma can be tackled through understanding and getting to know the individual, rather than making broad assumptions about them based on their mental health.  Stigma can also be based around fear; people who do not understand a mental health condition may be afraid to socialise, work, or otherwise interact with a person experiencing mental illness. Find out about Anti-Stigma work. 


Suicide is the act of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally. There are many reasons suicide occurs. Often people describe their reason for considering or attempting suicide as a means of escaping problems that they don't see a solution to, or as a way to end ongoing psychological distress that they do not feel that can cope with. 


This refers to practical, financial and emotional support for adults who need some extra assistance to manage their lives and be independent. This kind of support may be required due to disability, old age, and/or mental illness. 

Do you have a question about any of the terms we've used on our website or publications that you'd like us to explain?

If so, please get in touch!

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