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A Post-Regina Conference Update from the Chair of the National Consumer Advisory Council (NCAC)

Changing the term and definition of “consumer” – Your voice is important!!

There has been extensive discussion on the term “‘consumer” and its definition. This term originated in the United States and was used by CMHA and defined as “a consumer is someone who has experienced significant mental health issues and has used the resources of the mental health system.” This definition tends to make people think that it refers only to people who gain access to treatment services and does not allow for those who seek information, tools and other supports to maintain or improve their mental health or prevent mental illness. In addition, people who have mental health issues may now take advantage of non-traditional alternatives rather than formal mental health services. There are now other ways to strengthen our mental health such as through self-care tools, and peer support.

As time moves on many have deemed the term “consumer” as invalid or no longer relevant. Many feel that the term adds to discrimination against people with mental health issues. The NCEAC would like to facilitate the process of the search for a more inclusive name and definition.

We recognize that this process is one that is necessary given the feedback from so many over the years who no longer identify with the term consumer. We also must recognize that it may not be an easy process and not everyone will agree on the new term but that that is part of the process. From the feedback received from consumers and others throughout the past few years there is a need to look at a broader definition as noted above.

The process for soliciting feedback across the country will appear on the CMHA website in the near future. Please keep checking it out to add your ideas.

Thank you.

Theresa Claxton-Wali
Chair, National Consumer Engagement and Advisory Committee