Its an expression we use every day, so it might surprise you that the term mental health is frequently misunderstood.
Mental health is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions such as depression, anxietyconditions, schizophrenia, and others.
According to the World Health Organization, however, mental health isa state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
So rather than being about whats the problem? its really about whats going well?'
To make things a bit clearer, some experts have tried coming up with different terms to explain the difference between mental health and mental health conditions. Phrases such as good mental health, positive mental health, mental wellbeing, subjective wellbeing and even happiness have been proposed by various people to emphasise that mental health is about wellness rather than illness. While some say this has been helpful, others argue that using more words to describe the same thing just adds to the confusion.
Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with increased learning, creativity and productivity, more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships, and with improved physical health and life expectancy. In contrast, mental health conditions can cause distress, impact on day-to-day functioning and relationships, and are associated with poor physical health and premature death from suicide.
But its important to remember that mental health is complex. The fact that someone is not experiencing a mental health condition doesnt necessarily mean their mental health is flourishing. Likewise, its possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition while feeling well in many aspects of life.
Ultimately, mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy the way we think, feel and develop relationships - and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.
While Beyond Blue's primary focus is on the needs of people affected by depression, anxietyand suicide, we also believe that a better understanding of what we mean by mental health and how to achieve it will help everyone in Australia reach their full potential. This will also contribute to the prevention of mental health conditions, and support people who have experienced these conditions to get as well as they can and lead full and contributing lives.
Having social connections, good personal relationships and being part of a community are vital to maintaining good mental health and contribute to people's recovery, should they become unwell.
However, if you feel that you may be affected by depressionor anxietyremember they are treatable conditions and effective treatmentsare available. The earlier youseek support, the better.
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