Mental Health & Suicide Prevention Glossary
Information about mental health and suicide prevention can sometimes include language you might not be familiar with. These terms are used commonly when talking about suicide prevention.
Activities or programs that are in keeping with the best available evidence regarding what is effective.
Crisis counseling provided via instant messaging.
Comprehensive suicide prevention plans
Plans that use a multi-faceted approach to addressing the problem. For example, including interventions targeting biopsychosocial, social, and environmental factors.
The principle in medical ethics that the information a patient or client reveals to a health care provider is private and has limits on how and when it can be disclosed to a third party.
A person who is using or has used a health service.
A phenomenon whereby susceptible persons are influenced toward suicidal behavior through knowledge of another person’s suicidal acts.
A facility or call center where people going through personal crises can obtain help or advice, either in person or over the phone.
Brief counseling focused on minimizing stress, providing emotional support and improving immediate coping strategies. Like psychotherapy, crisis counseling involves assessment, planning and treatment, but the scope of service is much more specific.
A phone number people can call to get immediate emergency crisis counseling.
See Crisis counseling
People in a community who have face-to-face contact with large numbers of community members as part of their usual routine; they may be trained to identify people at risk of suicide and refer them to treatment or supporting services as appropriate.
The complete state of physical, mental, and social well-being.
Health and safety officials
Law enforcement officers, fire fighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and outreach workers in community health programs.
A situation where a person’s current risk status is believed to indicate actions that could lead to his or her suicide.
A strategy or approach that is intended to prevent an outcome or to alter the course of an existing condition (such as providing lithium for bipolar disorder or strengthening social support in a community).
The instrument or object whereby a self-destructive act is carried out (i.e., firearm, poison, medication).
Techniques, policies, and procedures designed to reduce access or availability to means and methods of deliberate self-harm.
Actions or techniques which result in an individual inflicting self-harm (i.e., asphyxiation, overdose, jumping).
A diagnosable illness characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities; often used interchangeably with mental illness.
The capacity of people to interact with one another and the environment in ways that promote subjective well-being, optimal development, and use of mental abilities.
Mental health problem
Diminished cognitive, social or emotional abilities, but not to the extent that the criteria for a mental disorder are met.
Mental health services
Health services that are specially designed for the care and treatment of people with mental health problems, including mental illness. Includes hospital and other 24-hour services, intensive community services, ambulatory or outpatient services, medical management, case management, intensive psychosocial rehabilitation services, and other intensive outreach approaches to the care of individuals with severe disorders.
See Mental disorder.
A strategy or approach that is implemented after a crisis or traumatic event has occurred.
A strategy or approach that reduces the likelihood of risk of onset or delays the onset of adverse health problems or reduces the harm resulting from conditions or behaviors.
Coalitions of change-oriented organizations and individuals working together to promote suicide prevention. Prevention networks might include statewide coalitions, community task forces, regional alliances, or professional groups.
Factors that make it less likely that individuals will develop a disorder. Protective factors may encompass biological, psychological or social factors in the individual, family and environment.
See Mental disorder.
The medical science that deals with the origin, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental disorders.
The science concerned with the individual behavior of humans, including mental and physiological processes related to behavior.
The science and art of promoting health, preventing disease, and prolonging life through the organized efforts of society.
The process of quantifying the probability of an individual harming himself or others.
Those factors that make it more likely that individuals will develop a disorder; risk factors may encompass biological, psychological or social factors in the individual, family and environment.
Administration of an assessment tool to identify persons in need of more in-depth evaluation or treatment.
Instruments and techniques (questionnaires, check lists, self-assessment forms) used to evaluate individuals for increased risk of certain health problems.
The various methods by which individuals injure themselves, such as self-cutting, self-battering, taking overdoses or exhibiting deliberate recklessness.
Organized efforts to advance human welfare, such as home-delivered meal programs, support groups, and community recreation projects.
Assistance that may include companionship, emotional backing, cognitive guidance, material aid and special services.
Entities, including organizations, groups and individuals, which are affected by and contribute to decisions, consultations and policies.
An object, idea, or label associated with disgrace or reproach.
Substance use disorder
A maladaptive pattern of substance use manifested by recurrent and significant adverse consequences related to repeated use. This includes maladaptive use of legal substances and illicit drugs.
Suicidal act (also referred to as suicide attempt)
A potentially self-injurious behavior with a nonfatal outcome, for which there is evidence that the person intended to kill himself or herself. A suicide attempt may or may not result in injuries.
A spectrum of activities related to thoughts and behaviors that include suicidal thinking, suicide attempts, and completed suicide.
Self-reported thoughts of engaging in suicide-related behavior.
A term that encompasses suicidal thoughts, ideation, plans, suicide attempts, and completed suicide.
Death from injury, poisoning, or suffocation where there is evidence that a self-inflicted act led to the person’s death.
See Suicidal act.
Suicide attempt survivors
Individuals who have survived a prior suicide attempt.
Family members, significant others, or acquaintances who have experienced the loss of a loved one due to suicide. Sometimes this term is also used to mean suicide attempt survivors.
Suicide warning signs
Indications that an individual is at risk for suicide.
Adapted from the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for action. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 2001