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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
March/April 2010, Volume 18, Number 2 

Silhouettes of various people

Terms We’ve Heard So Far . . .

Have you heard or used the following terms on mental health, behavioral health, substance use, recovery, and individuals? Would you recommend certain ones for the field to use? Please send your comments to

On Mental Health

The term “mental health” leaves out mental illness, and we really need to focus on the latter.

“Mental illness” leaves out emotional well-being and the growing science of prevention.

“Mental health” leaves out substance abuse and/or addictions while “behavioral health” misconstrues the disease nature of mental illness and addictions.

On Behavioral Health

“Behavioral health” implies a chosen behavior, easily stopped if a person just had enough willpower.

“Behavioral health” focuses too much on symptomological behaviors that people cannot control.

“Behavioral health” is a term that encompasses both substance abuse/addiction and mental illness/health.

On Substance Use

“Substance use disorders” is too strong and does not recognize that a person can be abusing substances long before he/she can be characterized as having a disorder.

“Substance abuse” is too soft and does not recognize the nature of substance use disorders or the importance of prevention.

The medical model of “disease” is not consistent with the experience of people who believe they are simply unique individuals labeled for not conforming to this world’s expectations.

On Recovery

“Recovery” is a term for substance abuse or addictions but is not well defined for mental illnesses.

“Recovery” means abstinence (including prescription medications).

“Recovery” is a journey. Some can be on a path to recovery or in recovery while using substances, taking medications, or experiencing symptoms of mental illness such as hallucinations, flat affect, or flight of ideas.

On Individuals

The term “consumer” is demeaning or does not work for the addictions world.

“Client” suggests a power/subordinate relationship.

“Patient” is too medical.

“Survivor” is real and yet too political, as if the system and treatment are dangerous in their own right.

Thank you very much for participating in this dialogue about the terms we use in the field. We will report the results in a forthcoming edition of SAMHSA News. Send your comments to

  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Take Action in Your Community

Take Action in Your Community

Three new campaigns bring powerful prevention messages to communities.

  From the Administrator  
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

Considering Language in Our Field

Do you use certain terms to describe our field? See terms.

  More on Underage Drinking  
Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

The STOP program is making a difference. Read about grantees in Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Town Hall Meetings Continue To Expand

Nearly 1,800 communities across the Nation recently met to discuss underage drinking.

State Estimates on Underage Drinking

State by state, the numbers differ on children and alcohol use.

  Women & Substance Abuse  
Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Gender makes a difference. TIP 51 can help providers offer women effective, up-to-date treatment.

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Comparing data from 1992 and 2007 on admission rates.

  Treatment Updates  
Uninsured Workers: Recent Data

Uninsured Workers: Data

Who needs treatment for substance abuse?

Free Treatment Available

Some facilities offer substance abuse treatment at no charge or a sliding scale fee.

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Methadone maintenance, buprenorphine maintenance. What are the similarities and differences among OTPs?

  Evidence-Based Practices  
Evidence-Based Practices KITs

Evidence-Based Practices KITs

The Knowledge Information Transformation (KIT) series offers new KITs.

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

The Agency outlines a budget request totaling $3.7 billion.

More on the Budget . . .

Established programs, new initiatives, and SAMHSA’s Budget Authority by Activity and the Agency’s Congressional Justification.

  Grants Updates  
Promoting Mental Health Recovery

Promoting Mental Health

Five behavioral health care provider associations recently received funding.

  Media & Messages  
Art & Children’s Mental Health

Art & Children’s Mental Health

Every day is Children’s Mental Health Day: “My Feelings Are a Work of Art.”

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

Share the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Minds on the Edge

Minds on the Edge

Facing mental illness is the subject of a PBS program.

  Recovery Month  
Flyers Available

Flyers Available

For 2010 celebrations, the flyers are available in print and online.

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Thousands of children age 12 to 17 with pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma used inhalants.


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration – 1 Choke Cherry Road – Rockville, MD 20857
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