Mental Health A-Z


A mental illness involving seriously distorted thinking, actions and feelings (psychosis) episodically, which makes functioning in society difficult for people with this condition. For about one per cent of the population, schizophrenia develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, and may be with them for the rest of their lives. Once this condition has been diagnosed, medical treatment is generally effective.



When someone is confined in a specific room from which they cannot freely leave.

Sentinel events

A relatively infrequent, clear-cut event that occurs independently of a patient’s condition; it commonly reflects hospital system and process deficiencies, and results in unnecessary outcomes for the patient.

Sexual Orientation

A combination of emotional, romantic, sexual or affectionate attraction to another person. Specialist mental health service Services with a primary function to provide treatment, rehabilitation or community health support targeted towards people with a mental illness or a disability arising from their illness.


A negative opinion or judgement held about certain people by individuals or society. Stigma against people with a mental illness involves inaccurate and hurtful representations of them as violent, comical or incompetent. This can be dehumanising and makes people an object of fear or ridicule. If these propositions are acted upon, these actions are discriminatory – see also Discrimination. Stigma can occur in the media in the form of reports that refer to inaccurate stereotypes, sensationalise issues through unwarranted references to mental illness, misuse medical terminology, or use demeaning or hostile language. Self-stigma is the acceptance of prejudiced perceptions held by others.

Structural discrimination

Term used to describe discrimination at the institutional level; for example, workplace practices.

Substance misuse

Term used to describe use of a substance which is illegal or inconsistent with medical guidelines.

Substance use disorder

A disorder of harmful use and/or dependence on either legal or illegal substances, including alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs.

Suicidal behaviour

Term used to describe behaviours and thoughts that people have to deliberately harm themselves.

Suicidal ideation

Persistent, intrusive thoughts of wishing to be dead, or deliberate planning or actual attempts to take one’s own life.


Deliberately ending one’s own life.

Suicide attempt

A non-fatal self-directed injury or behaviour with the intent to cause death. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injury.

Support person

"Family and support include family members, partners, friends or anyone whose primary relationship with the person concerned is a personal, supportive and caring one." As defined in: A national framework for recovery‑oriented mental health services: Policy and theory (2013).