Glossary of Terms


State Government of Victoria, Australia, Department of Health: Victorian Mental Health ServicesĀ 

2015 factsheet: A Guide To Mental Health Terminology

A Guide To Mental Health Terminology

This guide aims to provide a quick reference for anybody seeking to understand terms commonly used by mental health services.

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Delusions are psychotic symptoms of particular types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia. They are firmly held beliefs which are not held by other members of the person's social group. Persons who experience delusions may offer bizarre explanations for experiences or circumstances. For example, they may believe they are being spied upon, followed, poisoned or that they possess great unrecognised talent.


A group of brain disorders that most commonly occur in old age, although sometimes could develop earlier. They are the result of brain tissue deterioration. Common features include decline in the ability to recall recent and past events, decline in mental functioning (for example, may not be able to make simple calculations or organise a routine task) and the person behaving in ways considered out of character for him/her.


A lowering of mood which includes feelings of sadness, despair and discouragement, which range from mild to severe and is sustained over a period of time. Mild depression is an emotional state that many people experience during their life. Severe depression is a severe mental illness producing symptoms such as slowness of movement, loss of interest or pleasure in most activities, sleep and appetite changes, and agitation. People experiencing severe depression will have intense feelings of worthlessness and may experience delusions; for example, a person may believe they are the cause of the world's problems. Severe depression can lead to suicidal ideas and actual suicidal actions.


A medical term meaning the identification of symptoms which are consistent with a particular illness or disorder. Specific tests and a medical examination can sometimes prove that physical illness is present. Diagnosis of a mental illness, however, is based on interviewing the client and others who know them and on clinical observations.


See psychiatric disability.


A symptom of some illnesses which affects the person's ability to know where he/she is, have some idea of time of day, date and year, and remember familiar people.

Drug Induced Psychosis

A mental illness involving distorted or imaginary sensations caused by the one off or repeated use of a drug (such as marijuana or amphetamines) or the use of a drug over a long period of time. The symptoms of a drug induced psychosis will usually appear quickly and can last for up to four weeks until the effects of the drug wear off.

Duty Worker

A mental health professional at a community mental health centre who is the first contact for a client requesting mental health services. The duty worker undertakes an initial screening and may then arrange an intake assessment of the client's current problem(s) and guide the client to the appropriate public mental health service or other community service.

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