The language of risk: common understanding or diverse perspectives?



Publication Details

Clancy, L., Happell, B. & Moxham, L. (2014). The language of risk: common understanding or diverse perspectives?. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 35 (7), 551-557.


Risk as a concept now takes high priority in contemporary mental health services, with increasing pressure on mental health services to develop risk assessment and management practices. This focus on risk has been criticised for its over-reliance on measurement and management at the expense of therapeutic care and is perpetuated by the language of risk which reinforces power differentials and limits capacity for consumers and carers to influence discussions and debates. Furthermore, to date, most work in this area reflects adult settings with limited consideration of the unique needs of older people and the impact of risk assessment on the care they receive. A qualitative, exploratory approach was undertaken using individual interviews and focus groups to enhance understanding of how risk is conceptualised within an older persons' setting. Managers, clinicians, consumers, and carers from a large metropolitan service participated (n = 57). The language of risk was a major theme emerging from this work. This language, so familiar to providers of services, was not familiar to consumers and carers. A reframing of risk is necessary to reflect consumers' and carers' experiences and understandings. This approach will be essential in promoting consumer and carer participation within recovery-based services, reflecting significant goals of government policy.

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