Truths About Mental Health versus Mental Illness

What does the term mental health mean to you?

Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘that poor person with mental health, I’m glad I don’t have that struggle’? Well, you may not struggle with a mental illness but you do have mental health. We all do! In society we use those words interchangeably when in fact they are quite different. What are the truths about mental health and mental illness? I invite you to learn with me about the difference between mental health and mental illness.   

Truths About Mental Health?

In my words, mental health refers to your emotional, physical, psychological, and social well-being. When you say to yourself ‘I got this!” you are likely experiencing positive mental health. According to CAMH, “Mental health involves finding balance in all aspects of your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is the ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges you face everyday” Your mental health can be greatly affected by things such as work, school, relationships, emotional growth, self-esteem, and resiliency. Picture your mental health on a vertical continuum, with good mental health at the top. When there are changes in a person’s ability to cope and function mental health challenges may occur, as you slide towards the bottom of the continuum. You can have poor mental health and still not have a mental illness… just as you can have a mental illness and have good mental health.  

Mental Health vs. Mental Illness

Truths About Mental Illness?

Since I’m not a doctor lets see what the professionals have to say about mental illness. “Mental illness is the term used to refer to mental health problems that are diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals. This would include such problems as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders, to name a few.” (CAMH). Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. (Mayo clinic) Mental illness can also be viewed on a continuum from serious mental illness to no symptoms of mental illness, as you can see in the photo above. 

I have included a little 6 minute video to help illustrate the difference

In our North American world and much of the developed world we separate the mind from the body and our physical health from our emotional health. I believe when we separate these things we are doing ourselves a disservice and will struggle to reach optimal mental health and/or healing. As a social worker I believe it is so important to take a holistic approach to health, wellness, and healing.

Thoughts on Mental Health

Regardless of whether we have a mental illness or not there are a number of things we can do to work towards good mental health. One way you can improve your mental health is to work towards a state of mindfulness and intention. The best way to do this is to start with meditation and mindfulness exercises. (click here for my free 5 min meditation). What do you do to improve your mental health? I invite you to share your ideas in the comments below.   

I invite you to check-in with yourself…. how is your mental health? What changes can you make to improve your mental health today? 

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5 Comments on “Truths About Mental Health versus Mental Illness

  1. Pingback: Welcome (First Post) – Warm Tea & Cozy Sweaters

  2. Hi Sarah, thanks for your awesome post here on mental health and mental illness. I totally know what you mean by the “I got this” moment. I’ve had those moments–they are beautiful and empowering. Thank you also for reminding us that mental illness is on a spectrum. I agree that so many of us have symptoms that can become better and worse, and I’ve learned for myself how much stress has an impact on that. You asked us to comment on things we do to increase our mental health, so here are a few of mine: warm bath with lavender oil and epsom salts, lavender spray and candle at bedtime, time with dogs (they are very therapeutic for me), time with children (they are the most accepting and non-judgemental little humans) and most recently running… the physical exercise reduces feelings of stress and creates a sense of being in control and healthier. Also allows a space for the adrenaline of emotions to be released. Keep writing… I am enjoying your posts!

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  4. Pingback: Welcome (First Post) – Mentally Healthy Me

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