Leslie Carpenter, who serves as President of the Johnson County (Iowa) chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI, posed a compelling question on her Facebook page that is garnering a great deal of response from advocates for persons with mental illness. Leslie asks,


If you could re-name a psychiatric unit or system to get rid of the common place, “Behavioral Health”, what would you change it to?

She gives this as her rationale:

 I am hoping to elevate thinking on this away from a name that infers that children and adults with brain disorders like Schizophrenia can be treated with coping skills and behavior modification and help the public to understand these are MEDICAL Conditions that need and deserve Treatment…

Finally, she primes the pump with these:

1. Neuroscience Unit
2. Neuropsychiatric Unit
3. Brain Disorders Unit

As of this writing, there have been 61 comments, and more are coming in by the hour. I thought it might be fruitful to share some of these then offer my reflections. I encourage you to do so as well in your comments.


Scott J. Carpenter — psychiatric health?

Lee Ann Cross Logan —  Brain Health and Wellness

Laura Pogliano — Neuropsychiatry

Deborah Mihalik Geesling — Psychosis related illnesses, or something with psychosis in it. Until we reclassify which will take years, I think psychosis makes more sense and clearly defines what illnesses we are talking about.

Nancy Connor Kotarski —Brain Disorders Unit or Center says what it is.

Emily Robinson — Neuropsychiatric. I hate behavioral health. Behaviors are symptoms of a neurological condition. It makes it sound as if the behaviors need treatment and not the underlying condition that is causing them to begin with.

Dj Jaffe — Neurobiological

Lynn Nanos — Ideally: “Neurology Unit.” Neurology should merge with psychiatry and “psych” (literally meaning “soul”) should be removed from vocabulary. 

Adam Wright — I like the idea of “Neuropsychiatry” as these brain disorders should be treated not just from a psychiatric standpoint but also a neurological one.

Mary L Sheldon — Neuropsychiatric Unit sounds about right

Leann Cortimiglia — Health and Neurological Restoration Unit

Ron Powers — I don’t think you can do much better than “Brain Disorders Unit.” But any of these is better than the weaselly “Behavioral Health.”

Dede Moon Ranahan — Neurobiological Care Unit.

Jeanne Allen Gore — Neurological Disease Care Center. If we look at what SARDAA is doing, they are attempting to have schizophrenia reclassified as a neurological disease like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.

Pamela Adle — I like neuroscience or neuropsychiatry.

Michael Turner — Brain Health and Wellness or Mind Wellness Unit

Katherine Judge — Neurobiological gets my vote!


As you can see, Leslie has many thoughtful friends who are more than just PC linguistic police. They are ardent advocates who recognize that what we say about persons who are struggling with a particular illness impacts how we respond to them. More than this, medical terminology impacts the quality of care.

With this in mind, here is my offering –Persons with brain disorders such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective,  bipolar, or clinical depression should be able to seek treatment at a Brain Clinic, on a Neuropsychiatric Unit. The Brain Clinic would also have units for Epilepsy, Altzheimer’s, Autism, etc… Perhaps also a separate Substance Abuse Unit to better care for those with a dual diagnosis.

Language matters. But in the end, it is not what we call someone, but how we care for them.

I have been in many “behavioral health” units, both as a patient and as a visitor.  Just this past month, while visiting the Cleveland Clinic, I went wandering through the halls looking for the Volunteer Office. I went through this building and that, past a parking garage littered with cigarette stubs and dirty hypodermics, beside unpainted drywall, around a broken elevator, up 5 flights to a room with a small sign that told me volunteers were coordinated there. Far to the right, there was a thick metallic door of the sort you would see in prison.

I knew who was locked behind that door. And I prayed one day they/we would be set free, not just from the enclosed walls of a treatment facility, but from the captivity of our minds.