Is Mental Health Illness Or Well Being?

What does your mind conjure up when you see the words ‘mental health’? Yes, the phrase does reek with all sorts of connotations doesn’t it!

When you think of the phrase Mental Health….. is it about

People who are strange or not normal.
Mental illness is a stigma or label to be avoided or kept quiet about
Referring to issues of incapacity of the mind and behaviour
A term that is a label to describe insanity, madness, weird people
Pathologies like depression, schizophrenia.
Or even the Mental Health department in your State’s Health Department?

The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Not the first thing that comes into many people’s minds with that phrase is it?

Part of the problem is the actual term ‘mental health’ – it conjures up images of illness, yet the word health is the opposite of illness – if we have health, we have wellness, not illness.

Formally, it is a term used to describe either a level of cognitive or emotional well-being or an absence of a mental disorder. From perspectives of the discipline of positive psychology or holism mental health may include an individual’s ability to enjoy life and procure a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.

The problem lies in the term itself – it is not accurately descriptive of what it means
So perhaps mental wellbeing or wellness is more to the point when encouraging or doing something positive about your own inner health.

Mental good health can also be defined as an absence of a major mental condition (for example, one of the diagnoses in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, IV) though recent evidence stemming from positive psychology suggests mental health is more than the mere absence of a mental disorder or illness. Therefore the impact of social, cultural, physical and education can all affect someone’s mental health.

We live in a society that takes great care of physical health or well being/wellness – look at the tremendous technological, pharmaceutical and research advances occurring every day.

Consider all the resources for physical health we have put before us constantly – weight loss programs and diets, gyms and exercise programs, fitness activities, sports, obesity concerns, nutritional supplements and so on.

Yet where is the equivalent education and push for mental well being? We readily take steps to ensure we avoid infections, injury and organic conditions (e.g. heart) – yet what do we do to avoid negative effects on our mental wellness?

So do you think of your own inner health as it were? And take care of it?

This is critically important when you consider that depression and anxiety affect so many, let alone more serious mental illness diagnoses.

In families, do we put as much conscious focus on mental well being as we do on physical health. Many know lots about good physical well being activities, but are we as informed about good mental health equivalents as we raise and teach our kids.

And, what State doesn’t have under-funded mental health department?

We have lost the concept of an holistic approach to our bodies, lives and society. We too readily compartmentalize – and put mental health into the too hard basket or simply neglect it.

We have ‘abnormalized’ mental health, instead of seeing it as important to our well being and a normal part of life – even if someone suffers from a mental illness.

People who suffer adverse mental well being conditions are still ‘normal’ people – just as an injured person is ‘normal, or just as a deaf person is normal.