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Mental health consumers

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A mental health consumer is a person who is obtaining treatment or support for a mental disorder, also known as psychiatric or mental illness. The term was coined by people who use mental health services in an attempt to empower those with mental health issues, usually considered a marginalized segment of society. The term suggests that there is a reciprocal contract between those who provide a service and those who use a service and that individuals have a choice in their treatment and that without them there could not exist mental health providers.

Today, the word mental health consumer has expanded in the popular usage of consumers themselves to include anyone who has received mental health services in the past, anyone who has a behavioral health diagnosis, or simply anyone who has experienced a mental or behavioral disorder. Other terms sometimes used by members of this community for empowerment through positive self-identification include "peers," "people with mental health disabilities," "psychiatric survivors," and "ex-patients." (See the Psychiatric survivors movement for more information.)

A similar definition would be a person who receives psychological services, perhaps from a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a social worker. It is an impersonal term often used in the health sector of a large economy. The consumer often expects to have some influence on service delivery and provides feedback to the provider. In Australia, informal support groups of people who had recovered from episodes of mental ill health were formed during the first wave of moving patients out of psychiatriic hospitals into the community in the 1960s. In the USA and other countries, informal movements to change service delivery and legislation began to be driven by consumers during the 1980s. These groups aimed to correct perceived problems in mental health services and to promote consultation with consumers. Consumer theory was devised to interpret the special relationship between a service provider and service user in the context of mental health. Consumer theory examines the consequences and sociological meaning of the relationship.

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