Mental health versus mental illness

When we think about mental health, we actually tend to think about mental illness. Words such as depression, anxiety, stigma or not coping tend to spring to mind. Mental
health is not simply the absence of mental illness, however (i.e. the absence of a disorder
such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia etc). Being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean
that we don’t have a mental health problem. It means that we can:
• Make the most of our potential
• Cope with normal challenges and stressors
• Work productively and fruitfully
• Play a full part in our family, friends and community.

_DSC6106Mental health is about wellness rather than illness, it means that we are able to thrive in terms of the way we think, feel and develop relationships – at work and at home

Mental health exists on a continuum; from positive, healthy functioning at one end through to experiencing symptoms of mental health conditions at the other end. All of us move up and down the continuum constantly depending on the stressors we are experiencing and how well we feel as though we are coping. It is absolutely OK and normal not to be OK, but the longer we are not OK, the more at risk we are.

Just like with our physical health, there are lots of things we can do to strengthen our mental health. Strategies such as managing our stress, sleeping well, eating well, exercising and remaining connected with our friends, are all strategies we can use to strengthen our mental health so that we are in a better position to manage the stressors of day-to-day life and caring for someone who struggles with mental health themselves.