To what extent does the term ‘service user’ and the language of mental health get in the way of anti-stigma messages? That was a question posed over coffee by one delegate…
Maurice Donohue recently joined SAMH as a service manager for their Get Active programme, promoting physical activity in a range of settings. He has a wide ranging background in retail and sports and leisure management and is keen to bring mental health into that arena.
Maurice has been surprised in the few weeks he has been in post that so many people with lived experience define themselves as ‘service users’ and that the term is almost universal. As a person new to mental health, he asked me why that was in mental health, given that people with other impairments seldom define themselves as users of spinal injuries services, or opthalmology services.
This is the ranking of terms that SRN’s research showed:
As you can see, service user was low on the list of preferred terms.
So is the term helpful?
Is the identity of ‘service user’ a construct created to keep people ‘in their place’ in hospital? Is it an identity to which you can cling when mental illness and discrimination strip you of anything else?
What do you think? Do you think it matters?
Whilst we are on terminology, two other points strike me…
Firstly, some people have called for a reduction in stigma by replacing the term mental health with ‘less stigmatised’ language. Certainly there is a school of thought in workplaces for instance that ‘wellbeing’ and ‘mind maintenance’ are more friendly and accessible. What do you think? Should we claim and own the term mental health and the language of discrimination and lived experience?
Lastly, I want to ask, is mental ill health just like a broken leg? Yes, we want parity of esteem, but how many times to people ask you if your leg fracture in 1995 stops you running today?
Lets have your views on language, terminology and its place in anti-stigma work…