What Is Mental Health?
Just as the absence of obvious physical illness or injury is only a foundation for physical health, the absence of symptoms of clear mental illness is only a foundation for understanding the concept of mental health. The World Health Organization has previously defined the concept of health as “A complete state of physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” In this viewpoint health is essentially a continuum of level of functioning which goes well above the simple absence of illness.
This is particularly true in terms of mental health. Most of us suffer no clearly diagnosed mental illness, but may often live and experience life in ways that are well below our potential for productivity and contentment. Many people have a feeling of discontentment about their life which is a reflection of less than ideal mental health. There are lucrative industries which have grown up around the common dissatisfaction with with ourselves.
This brings up back to the question of what is mental health. From this viewpoint mental health is a continuum of the human experience of living including emotional functioning, thinking abilities, productivity, and social interactions. None of us are likely to achieve our full potential, but a healthy mental life is that directed towards continual growth in the areas just described. While mental health is in some ways tied to certain aspects of physical health, they are not necessarily intertwined. The aspect of physical health most closely tied to mental health is brain functioning, and conditions which affect the physical functioning of the brain (such as brain injury or dementia) can have some of the most direct and observable impacts on mental health. In contrast, many people have suffered other forms of debilitating diseases for many years and managed to maintain good mental health. Likewise, some of us are physically quite healthy and have extremely poor mental health due to the ways we think and live our lives. Just as your physical health is to a great extent dependent upon diet and lifestyle, your mental health is similarly dependent upon how you have learned to think and what you choose to allow into your life by way of relationships, entertainment, news and information, and education. They say you are what you eat, and mentally that is also true to a great extent in that you are what you choose to allow to enter your life in terms of your interaction with the world around you. Hopefully this information has assisted you with thinking about your opinion of what is mental health and how you pursue optimum mental health in your life.