What does “strong mental health” mean?

Proudly supported by

  Last updated May 28, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Topics:  

“Mental health and mental illness are not simply two sides of the same coin. Mental health, just like physical health, exists on a spectrum from poor to optimal.”


mental health_mental illness_emotions

Positive mental health is a combination of feeling good and functioning well. Credit: picture/Getty Images




Why This Matters: Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.




Amid the coronavirus pandemic we are being warned of a “second wave” of mental health problems that threatens to overrun an already weakened mental health service.


As we emerge from this crisis, while some people may need specialist help with treating mental illness, everybody can benefit from strategies to improve mental health.


This is because mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. Positive mental health is a combination of feeling good and functioning well.




Watch: My Year of Living Mindfully – SCINEMA 2020 Best Film




Mental illness vs mental health: what’s the difference?


Mental health and mental illness are not simply two sides of the same coin. Mental health, just like physical health, exists on a spectrum from poor to optimal.


With physical health, some days we naturally feel stronger and more energetic than others. Similarly, some days our mental health is worse than others, and that too is a natural part of being human. We may feel tired, grumpy, sad, angry, anxious, depressed, stressed, or even happy at any point in time. These are all normal human emotions, and aren’t on their own a sign of mental illness.




Also: Feel like it’s all getting too much? Don’t worry, you’re not alone




Someone living with a mental illness can be experiencing optimal mental health at any point in time, while someone else can feel sad or low even in the absence of a mental illness.


Differentiating between poor mental health and symptoms of a mental illness is not always clear-cut. When poor mental health has a sustained negative impact on someone’s ability to work, have meaningful relationships, and fulfil day-to-day tasks, it could be a sign of mental illness requiring treatment.


mental health_mental illness_wellbeing

Mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. You can have poor mental health in the absence of a mental illness. Credit: Supplied, adapted from Keyes 2002.


What does positive mental health look like?


Mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness.


Positive mental health and well-being is a combination of feeling good and functioning well. Important components include:



  • experiencing positive emotions: happiness, joy, pride, satisfaction, and love

  • having positive relationships: people you care for, and who care for you

  • feeling engaged with life

  • meaning and purpose: feeling your life is valuable and worthwhile

  • a sense of accomplishment: doing things that give you a sense of achievement or competence

  • emotional stability: feeling calm and able to manage emotions

  • resilience: the ability to cope with the stresses of daily life

  • optimism: feeling positive about your life and future

  • self-esteem: feeling positive about yourself

  • vitality: feeling energetic.


How can I cultivate my mental health?


Your mental health is shaped by social, economic, genetic and environmental conditions. To improve mental health within society at large, we need to address the social determinants of poor mental health, including poverty, economic insecurity, unemployment, low education, social disadvantage, homelessness and social isolation.




Also: Mental illness takes a toll on our physical health too




On an individual level, there are steps you can take to optimise your mental health. The first step is identifying your existing support networks and the coping strategies that you’ve used in the past.


There are also small things you can do to improve your mental health and help you to cope in tough times, such as:



  • helping others

  • finding a type of exercise or physical activity you enjoy (like yoga)

  • getting good sleep

  • eating healthy food

  • connecting with others, building and maintaining positive relationships

  • learning strategies to manage stress

  • having realistic expectations (no one is happy and positive all the time)

  • learning ways to relax (such as meditation)

  • counteracting negative or overcritical thinking

  • doing things you enjoy and that give you a sense of accomplishment.


How do I know if I need extra support?


Regardless of whether you are experiencing a mental illness, everyone has the right to optimal mental health. The suggestions above can help everyone improve their mental health and well-being, and help is available if you’re not sure how to get started.


However, when distress or poor mental health is interfering with our daily life, work, study or relationships, these suggestions may not be enough by themselves and additional, individualised treatment may be needed.


If the answer to RUOK? is no, or you or your loved ones need help, reaching out to your local GP is an important step. If you are eligible, your GP can refer you for free or low-cost sessions with a psychologistexercise physiologistdietitian, or other allied health or medical support services.


If you, or someone you know needs help with mental health, help is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.


This article was co-authored with Simon Rosenbaum from UNSW Sydney.


This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


More Like This


Being an early-riser is in your genes and might affect your mental health


A strong case for exercise as a way to beat depression




About the Author

Jill Newby
Jill Newby is a Fellow in the School of Psychology at UNSW. She is also Research Director of the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney. Her research focuses on understanding the nature, causes and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders, with a key focus on online treatments and self-help programs for anxiety and depression.

Published By

Featured Videos

Placeholder
Big Questions: Cancer
Placeholder
A future of nanobots in 180 seconds
Placeholder
Multi-user VR opens new worlds for medical research
Placeholder
Precision atom qubits achieve major quantum computing milestone
Placeholder
World's first complete design of a silicon quantum computer chip
Placeholder
Micro-factories - turning the world's waste burden into economic opportunities
Placeholder
Flip-flop qubits: a whole new quantum computing architecture
Placeholder
Ancient Babylonian tablet - world's first trig table
Placeholder
Life on Earth - and Mars?
Placeholder
“Desirable defects: Nano-scale structures of piezoelectrics” – Patrick Tung
Placeholder
Keeping Your Phone Safe from Hackers
Placeholder
Thru Fuze - a revolution in chronic back pain treatment (2015)
Placeholder
Breakthrough for stem cell therapies (2016)
Placeholder
The fortune contained in your mobile phone
Placeholder
Underwater With Emma Johnston
Placeholder
Flip-flop qubits: a whole new quantum computing architecture
Placeholder
The “Dressed Qubit” - breakthrough in quantum state stability (2016)
Placeholder
Pinpointing qubits in a silicon quantum computer (2016)
Placeholder
How to build a quantum computer in silicon (2015)
Placeholder
Quantum computer coding in silicon now possible (2015)
Placeholder
Crucial hurdle overcome for quantum computing (2015)
Placeholder
New world record for silicon quantum computing (2014)
Placeholder
Quantum data at the atom's heart (2013)
Placeholder
Towards a quantum internet (2013)
Placeholder
Single-atom transistor (2012)
Placeholder
Down to the Wire (2012)
Placeholder
Landmark in quantum computing (2012)
Placeholder
1. How Quantum Computers Will Change Our World
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – What will a quantum computer do?
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Hardware
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Algorithms
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Quantum Logic
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Entanglement
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Quantum Measurement
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts – Spin
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Quantum Bits
Placeholder
Quantum Computing Concepts - Binary Logic
Placeholder
Rose Amal - Sustainable fuels from the Sun
Placeholder
Veena Sahajwalla - The E-Waste Alchemist
Placeholder
Katharina Gaus - Extreme Close-up on Immunity
Placeholder
In her element - Professor Emma Johnston
Placeholder
Martina Stenzel - Targeting Tumours with Tiny Assassins
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why are we all athletes?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Megafauna murder mystery
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why are we so hairy?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why grannies matter
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why do only humans experience puberty?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Evolution of the backside
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Why we use symbols
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Evolutionary MasterChefs
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - The Paleo Diet fad
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Are races real?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Are We Still Evolving?
Placeholder
How Did We Get Here? - Dangly Bits
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Climate Migrants
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: De-Extinction
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Nuclear Disasters
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Storm Surges
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: How the Japan tsunami changed science
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: How the World Trade Centre collapsed
Placeholder
Catastrophic Science: Bushfires