Terms used in this guideline


A carer is someone who helps another person, usually a relative or friend, in their day-to-day life. This is not the same as someone who provides care professionally or through a voluntary organisation.

Coping strategies

Coping strategies are the methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. The term is used in this guideline to refer to ways that people recognise changes and cope with their mental illness or related symptoms. Some coping strategies can have negative consequences for a person using them or for the people around them.

Discharge letter

A short document that includes the details of a person's current prescription, the reasons for any changes in medicines and their immediate medication treatment plan.

Discharge summary

A summary of what happened during a person's admission and hospital stay from a medical perspective. It must include the diagnosis, outcomes of investigations, changes to treatment and the medicines started or stopped, or dosage changes and reasons why.


An intervention in which a healthcare professional observes and maintains contact with a person using mental health services to ensure that person's safety and the safety of others. There are different levels of observation depending on how vulnerable to harm the person is considered to be.


Education sessions for people affected by mental illness and their families and carers. Psychoeducation uses shared learning to empower people to cope better. Sessions can cover areas such as recognising symptoms and triggers, preventing relapses and developing coping strategies. Carers learn how best to support the person. Sessions should start while the person is in hospital and run beyond discharge so the person can test approaches in their home setting.


There is no single definition of recovery for people with mental health problems, but the guiding principle is the belief that it is possible for someone to regain a meaningful life, despite serious mental illness. In this guideline it is used to refer to someone achieving the best quality of life they can, while living and coping with their symptoms. It is an ongoing process whereby the person is supported to build up resilience and set goals to minimise the impact of mental health problems on their everyday life.

Therapeutic relationships

Relationships based on mutual trust, kindness and respect, focusing on the person's recovery goals.

For other social care terms, see the Think Local, Act Personal Care and Support Jargon Buster.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)