Using the right language is important for how we understand ourselves and each other, and for reducing stigma and discrimination. By using inclusive language we avoid defining people by illness alone, and promote broader understandings of people’s experiences and opportunities for recovery. Since the Mental Health Commission of NSW was established, the language used by those living with mental health issues, their families and carers, and people working in the mental health system, has changed. It is difficult to find language that fully describes everyone’s experiences of distress and recovery and experiences of care, support and advocacy, as well as Aboriginal cultural understandings of social and emotional wellbeing.

The Commission generally uses the phrases ‘people with lived experience of mental health issues’ rather than terms such as ‘consumer’ or ‘people with mental illness’; and ‘people with lived experience of caring’ rather than ‘carers’. By using these terms we seek to include experiences of mental health issues of all kinds, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of severity. We also aim to capture experiences that people feel are well described in traditional medical understandings of illness, and experiences that people understand in different ways.

We know that language continues to change and we will update this website with more current and inclusive language as it changes.