By Emily Tonn, RMHCI
I invite you to take a moment to say these words aloud: Mental Health. Mental Illness. What did you think of when you saw or said these words? What did you feel? Did you see a picture in your mind, of a situation or perhaps a person? If you spoke aloud, what tone did you use for each?
At first glance some might believe that one has a negative connotation whereas the other holds a positive. Today, I am going to explain the differences between the two and then discuss how they are and are not related.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines Mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Mental illness is defined as “collectively all diagnosable mental disorders” or “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.” The CDC goes on to report that it is estimated that only about 17% of U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.
A person can be free from mental illness and still struggle with mental health. Likewise, a person with a diagnosed mental illness can be in a good state of mental health. It all depends upon awareness and proactively seeking help. Historically, emphasis has been placed on the identification and treatment of mental illness. Because of this, often those without mental illness go undetected or believe that since they don’t have a diagnosed illness they should be able to “handle it” on their own. This is far from true. Researchers suggest emotional, psychological and social well being contribute to a person’s mental health. These are major areas of life that most people at some point struggle with.
At Pamper Your Mind, we believe in and promote the importance of mental health awareness. Mental illness should not be the determining factor in reaching out for help. Mental illness and mental health are two things that exist. In and of itself neither is “bad” nor “good”. However, focusing on mental health and a positive state of well-being IS good and it is a healthy approach to becoming the best version of oneself. Pro-actively promoting mental health removes the label, lifts the stigma and can help an individual focus on who they are as a whole. We should not be defined by “what we have,” but instead by whom we are.