Mental health. So, what is mental health all about? The term mental health is a relatively new one. Certainly, when I was a young adult, the term was rarely used. Instead, the medical model of health was divided into physical and psychiatric with psychiatric referring to mental illness.
When I started my career in nursing we were taught about physical health and about mental health with an emphasis on mental illness. Now some 40 years later, the concept of good mental health for everyone is a dominant one.
The World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
The WHO also defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realises 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”.
By looking at these definitions it is possible to determine what mental illness is. Although not the opposite of mental health, but rather on a continuum, mental illness is at one end of the continuum and each and every one of us experience varying degrees of good and poor mental health. It is a dynamic concept as our health fluctuates all the time.
There are many definitions of mental health and mental illness and I have given just one above, but there is a more definitive definition of mental illness. Note: there are a variety of terms used to describe mental health problems of which mental illness is one. Others include: mental health disorder; mental ill-health; mental health condition; psychiatric illness.
A mental disorder or mental illness is a diagnosable illness. That means, it has a set of symptoms and signs that a doctor can analyse and come up with a name for the condition. Unlike many physical illnesses, it can take a very long time to arrive at a diagnosis with a mental illness.
A person may develop a mental illness for a brief period of time, for a long period of time or for life. But what’s really important to know about mental illness is that it is manageable. There are a range of treatment options available to a person who becomes ill. Things such as rest and counselling can achieve great results alone although the development of medication has also made a massive difference to the lives of people with mental illness.
Just as people who have physical illnesses require support, those with mental illness usually require support, but it’s important to realise that many people who have mental illnesses live happy and productive lives. And whilst there are many factors involved in why some people become ill, there are many things a person can do to decrease their chances of becoming mentally unwell.
Building resilience, practising self-care, being aware of stress management techniques and generally looking after yourself (that is, getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each day, eating three nutritious meals per day, drinking 7 to 8 glasses of water per day and exercising a minimum of three times per week et cetera) will all work in your favour as protective factors against developing mental ill-health.
If you are living in Australia and have a diagnosed mental illness, or think you may have, please ring me for a free no obligation chat, if you need some advice about your personal situation. I do counsel people on a short-term basis for a moderate fee and refer when necessary.
I suffered severe Post Natal Depression/ Perinatal Depression when I had my daughter, and professionally have been involved with mental health for many years. If you need some personalised advice, call me on 0407 885 219.