Mental Health is a generic term that can encompass a range of meanings. All psychological and psychiatric conditions can be understood, explained and treated under this generic term, ‘mental health’. There is a vast amount of literature on the topic of ‘mental health’, and in this context a person can get confused and overwhelmed.
The World Health Organisation describes ‘mental health’ as being “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease”(http://www.who.int/topics/mental_health/en/). Essentially, this is a state of well-being where a person realizes their own potential, remains resilient with life’s stressors, stable in the workplace and is able to contribute to their community.
The Mental Health Foundation of Australia (Victoria) tells us that “A mental illness can be defined as a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behaviour (or all three) and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning. As with many diseases, mental illness is severe in some cases and mild in others” (www.mentalhealth vic.org.au/).
In this context maintaining good mental health is as important as maintaining good physical health. Trying to rationalize or think your way through your psychological distress is not as effective as engaging in professional help.
This term ‘Mental Health’ can also be used to describe and understand what is working well. Like the two faces of a coin, mental health is best understood in its polarities, which means, taking the time to work with understanding why we feel so distressed and from this understanding, remaining committed to working to improve our situation.
Whilst diagnostic terms such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders, bipolar and mood disorders, addictions, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorders and eating disorders, to name a few, suggest that a person has an unstable mental health profile, it is important to understand that these terms need to be seen within a continuum of mild to severe, and more specifically, within the context of the person’s physical, social, personal and spiritual world views, including their heritable (also called genetic) and developmental patterns.
A note on spirituality: In using this term I am not talking about religion or the concept of a God, but rather, the values, principles, ideas and belief systems that an individual adheres to, or by the same token, is troubled or confused about.