Mental Health and Mental Illness

Posted by Mark Ward on Thursday, March 28, 2019

What is the difference between mental illness and mental health?

I had the pleasure of attending a recent workshop and one of the first topics brought up was the concept of mental illness versus mental health. Surprisingly often used interchangeably the two terms have a very different meaning. We all have mental health, we don’t all have a mental illness. We have mental health in the same way we have physical health. Of course, mental health differs from person to person and also is in different states of health at times in our life.

If we look at mental health in a similar way to physical health we realise we can change it. Equally, if we neglect it it will decline. We can use techniques to train our mind to have greater health, often referred to as resiliency. I like the term resiliency as it recognises that life throws various curve-balls at us. Resiliency means we deal with these curve-balls in a healthy way and rebound to our norms quickly.

Stress management, mindfulness and focus help us maintain and build mental health. Life is manageable and fulfilling in general, with a few bumps in the road we deal with.

Mental illness is something that is often diagnosed (or sometimes not) is is a more permanent state that needs assistance to manage. It affects the way we think and interact with others.

Paradoxically we can have poor mental health without mental illness and also mental illness with good mental health. There are great examples of people with mental illness such as bipolar disorder, who generally enjoy good mental health.

While there are a good number of indicators that (sadly) mental health issues are rising I haven’t found a good source on the trend of mental illness. I’d be happy for someone to share any links or references below!

For this topic, I should remind anyone troubled by their thoughts or state of mind to seek professional help.