A Glossary of Terms for Mental Health


We’ve compiled a glossary of terms for Mental Health and Education.

Navigating your way around the education and health systems in the UK is difficult. There’s a plethora of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon to encounter and whilst we couldn’t possibly account for them all across the country (they can differ between local trusts and authorities), here are some of the more common and widely used ones you may encounter on your journey. 


ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorder 

ASD is a developmental condition often characterised by difficulties with social communication and interaction, sensory issues, repetitive behaviours and anxiety. It can co-exist with other disorders and conditions. It is sometimes referred to as autism. 

ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

ADHD is a condition that affects behaviour. Its symptoms are inattentiveness impulsiveness and hyperactivity.


Anorexia is an eating disorder and mental health condition. Individuals with this disorder can eat very little or exercise too much or both and often have a very distorted image of their bodies. 


Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear or unease. Some anxiety is normal and can be part of the normal process of growing up but if it affects an individual’s physical health and day-to-day activities, this can become an anxiety disorder. 



Biploar is a term used to describe extreme mood swings, where an individual could be emotionally high or depressed. It used to be known as manic depression. 


CAF – Common Assessment Framework

The Common Assessment Framework is a document used to assess children with additional needs. It recognises services and support that needs to be actioned to help the family and individual. It may also be called an Early Help Assessment. 

CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service

CAMHS is now called Children and Young Persons Mental Health Services. The service supports children and young people with mental health difficulties and illnesses. 

Care Order

A care order is obtained through the courts to legally allow a local authority to take over the care of a child or young person if the child or young person is experiencing significant harm or there is potential for this. 

Care Plan

A care plan is devised when a child has health or well-being needs that need to be catered for in a particular way. 

CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy 

Cognitive behavioural therapy is a therapy which aims to change the way a person thinks (cognitive) in order to change the way they react to given stimuli (behaviour). 

CCG – Clinical Commissioning Group

Since 2022, the CCGs are now known as the Integrated Care Systems (ICS). They work in partnerships to organise health and care for a local area. They have also been know as Primary Care Trusts in the past. 

Child in Need Plan

This would usually be devised with the children’s social care team, education and the family where a child or children within a family have been identified as being subjected to or at risk of significant harm. 

Children’s Social Care (previously known as Children’s Services) 

Children’s Social Care is a team within the local authority who are responsible for the well-being and safety of children and young people within their county/district. They will intervene if a child or young person is vulnerable or at risk. 

Clinical psychologist 

A clinical psychologist is a medically trained professional that works with various individuals who are experiencing physical, emotional or mental health difficulties or have disabilities. 


Counselling allows a safe space to talk through your emotional and mental health difficulties with a trained professional. 

Creative Therapies

Creative therapy is a collective term for various types of therapies that use the arts as a form of non-verbal cathartic expression. Examples are art, music or play therapy. 

CYP – Children and Young People 

An inclusive term that incorporates all individuals from 0 – 25 years. 


DAF – Devon Assessment Framework 

The Devon Assessment Framework is a tool developed in Devon to support the coordination of Early Help. It incorporates the Family Health Needs Assessment, The Common Assessment Framework and the SEND Pathway. 


Depression is a serious illness that can occur in children and young people. It is defined by a persistent period of sadness and withdrawal and/or fatigue, amongst other symptoms, to the extent that interferes with everyday activities and life. 


Early Help / Intervention

Early Help is the term used to describe the support that a family or individual should receive when a need is recognised. 

EHCP – Education, Health Care Plan

An EHCP is a document produced to support an individual with complex educational, health and/or care needs. The parents/carers in conjunction with the school can request for an EHC assessment to take place to see if a plan is required. 

EP – Educational Psychologist

The Educational Psychologist is a professional who may be able to diagnose child development difficulties and determine barriers to learning for individuals. 



GP – General Practitioner

The doctor who is responsible for your overall health. They are usually the gateway to being referred on to other medical practitioners and specialists. 

GLD – Global Learning Delay

Global Learning Delay is when a child experiences delays in their development in all or most aspects (i.e. speech and language skills, physical development, social and emotional skills and learning). 


Health Visitor

A health visitor is a registered nurse who is allocated to a family from the birth of a child. They lead the Healthy Child Programme which oversees the development of children from the ages of 0 – 5 and further if the child is identified as having additional needs. 


INCO – Inclusion Coordinator

The term ‘Inclusion coordinator’ is often used interchangeably with the terms ‘SENDCO’ or ‘SENCO’. They are responsible for all children with SEND needs within a school.  

ICS – 




LAC – Looked After Children

The term ‘Looked after children’ refer to children that have been taken into care and are now looked after by the local authority. 

LA – Local Authority

The local authority is the local arm of the government. They are responsible for many local services, such as social care and education. 


Mental Health 

This refers to someone’s well-being – their emotional and psychological state. 

Mental Illness

A mental illness is an umbrella term for a range of disorders diagnosed by professional medics. 

MASH – Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub 

This is the safeguarding hub in Devon and the place to report any concerns you may have relating to a child or young person in Devon. 


NHS – National Health Service

The NHS is the service for health and care within the UK that is funded through the Government and entrusted down to local trusts or ICS (see above). 


Occupational Health /Therapists

Occupational Health and therapist workers are concerned with ensuring an individual’s mental and physical health is considered and optimised whilst at work or for children with a disability who have difficulties with everyday tasks at home or school. 

OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD is concerned with uncontrollable, recurring thoughts that project into behaviours


PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 

A person suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder experiences disturbing flashbacks or nightmares as a result of going through a traumatic experience. 

Primary Care Network

There are 31  primary care networks in Devon. They consist of a muti-disciplinary team of pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physios, paramedics and a social care team. 




SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) 

A child with SEND may have identified difficulties with one of the four areas of need:- Cognition and Learning, Social, Emotional and Mental Health, Communication and Interaction and Physical and Sensory needs. 


DIAS is an independent organisation set up to give advice ad support to the families of children with SEND. 

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder 

A type of depression that relates to the changes of the season throughout the year. Typically, the onset is in the autumn and it lifts in the spring. 

SALT – Speech and Language Therapy

An NHS service that supports individuals with language, speech and communication difficulties 

SENDCO – Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Co-ordinator

The SENDCO (also known as a SENCO – Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator or INCO – Inclusion Co-ordinator). They take on a statutory role within every maintained school in the UK. They are tasked with improving outcomes for all children with SEND in the school.

Social Worker

A person who works in the social care team. Their role is to support individuals and families who are disadvantaged or vulnerable. 

SGO – Special Guardianship Order

An order that is issued through the courts. It gives parental care rights to an individual other than a parent. 


Team Around the Family (TAF)

A team around the family is a form of Early Help where parents, carers, and professionals work collaboratively to create a plan of intervention and support to improve the outcomes for a CYP and their family. 

Team Around the Child (CAF)

This is similar to the TAF meeting, where parents or carers and professionals meet to decide on the best support plan for the child. Often the child is has a SEND need. 



Virtual Schools

Each Local Authority is required to have a ‘Virtual School’. They are responsible for the education and well-being of children within the care system (Looked After Children). 




Youth Offending Team (YOT)

The youth offending team work with a range of professionals to help prevent youth from committing crimes. 


Heads Up have a range of services and support so that children and young people can speak more freely about their mental health and feel more empowered to make a difference. Find out more about what services are available by clicking here.

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