What is mental health?

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    The WHO (World Health Organization) states that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities; they define it as “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” From this definition, we can assume that not coping with normal stress, or being under more than normal stress makes us mentally unhealthy, and that if we don’t recognize our abilities, or don’t contribute to society, we are not mentally well, right?

    There are more problems with this definition and with most definitions of mental health because it’s normally linked to wellbeing, a very abstract concept influenced by hedonic and idealistic traditions, which champion positive emotions, living a life of virtue in the pursuit of human excellence, and high functioning.

    For example, Corey L M Keyes, an American sociologist and psychologist identifies three components of mental health:

    • emotional well-being: happiness, interest in life, and satisfaction;
    • psychological well-being: liking most parts of one’s own personality, being good at managing the responsibilities of daily life, having good relationships with others, and being satisfied with one’s own life; and
    • social well-being: positive functioning involving social contribution (having something to contribute to society), social integration (feeling part of a community), social actualization (believing that society is becoming a better place for all people), social coherence (the way society works makes sense).

    This way of defining mental health leaves out many groups of people that can’t afford the type of perfect member of society that the definition implies. That could include young people, or activists, or even artists. And of course, it may exclude many people that are somehow marginalized. The definition, as the medical model, pathologizes all behavior that doesn’t go with what “society” expects, but it’s evident that they are talking about a “society” from the point of of those in power, from those with privilege and whom the norms apply because they defined them.

    In psychiatry and for very long, mental health has been defined by behavior, on whether it is not appropriate or if it fails the standard norms of the society.

    Galderisi et al (2015) wrote a proposed definition that is more inclusive. They propose that:

    Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.

    This definition includes a new way to see the correlation between behavior, brain, and mind. It incorporates the way actions, emotions, affect, and dysregulation of the nervous system interact, and that someone is mentally healthy when there is a balance among them. It also included the internal equilibrium, which is physiological, which was not considered in the behavioral model.

    I’d add that mental health is, besides finding balance, it is also about reaching integration. Dan Siegel has written extensively about this. He proposes that mental disorders are outcomes of impaired integration; he says that the mind is a self-organizing process and integration is the core mechanism of well-being and mental health. Integration being the linkage of differentiated parts. When he talks about integration he includes two levels: an internal one that integrates thoughts, emotional parts, emotions, and find a harmonious flow between them; and an external one that integrates the self within the relationships and finds that harmony between the person and the others (including not only people). He states “trying to move an individual’s life toward more integration in a range of domains-from how we connect with one another with respect, to how we link different aspects of our brain to each other.”

    Id break it down into your emotional “stability”, like how much your emotion drive you toward a certain urge like sadness driving you to get less sad, pleasure driving you for more, happiness driving you to continue,

    then theres the methods and interpretations for getting there, kinda based on your and understandings of the world around you and inside your head. We all know happiness is probably the most important emotional goal.

    You might interpret happiness the wrong way and get enough pleasure and satisfaction (parts that make a happy lifestyle-habit) to be somewhat mistaken, or you might find a seriously dangerous way that makes happiness.

    then there are the ideals and principles, and ways of planting them (religious and moral teachings) which can be difficult to get absorbed, as it has a lot to do with “belief”, frequently associated with religion and principles, literally stuff you believe or are motivated by, loyalty to god or someone else who is really moral is a good way, fear of a gods punishment can create an enemy and shallow or opposing beliefs when one justifies the fear as being wrongfully put on them, the fearful being on the moral side, etc. finding ways to plant principles can be really hard, especially if the person isnt very loyal or loyal at all. Thats, from my experience, the most effective way to establish princples and really “believe” in them, to get motivated by them deeply, and to have the princple of following your principles. Thats an important part, a key principle is to follow your own principles and thusly be an independent thinker who doesnt waver on decisions beyond common uncertainty of reasoning and deduction based on them.

    these kinda mirror the partsof the brain from most basic to most advanced, ignoring the really basic ones, the stuff common to all brains, bodily regulation, actual basic sensation and physical stimulus etc, though emotional stimulus is similarly basic. Thinking in terms of the layers of conscious development is useful, the brain is laid out not just laid out as well as a computer, but its like a periodic table, the positioning of certain areas reflecting evolutionary development, or advancing sophistication, especially when looking at the brodmann areas and working iut why they are where they are, a lot of the advanced functions and parts are built on layers of less and less advanced ones. The most advanced ones have to do with what you “believe” and the layers are why, and the “conscious” response is a mysterious aspect of all of it working together in a independently motivated, thinking and animate thing, as opposed to a calculator (maybe computers are conscious but have no enotional or physical sensation, beyond my paygrade to male more than an honest guess, likely beyond most or anyone to pin down where “consciousness” is in physical terms of brain-computation. Thatd be a brilliant discovery.

    as we start to really understand the brain, physically , we should start getting grasp on psychology and natural computation. This is a ways off, and until then, the highly theoretical subject is full of theories theories theories; interpretation and common (if sometimes subtle and minor) toxicity are the biggest problems getting in the way of deeper development in this field, psychological treatment is a fucking mess. The statistical methods of study dont work very well at all

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    Ooh, cool question! I see some rather thoroughly researched answers already here, so I’m going to go off the cuff, and trust that you can use the previous answers if you want something cite-able.

    I think mental health has a lot to do with response flexibility—-that is, being able to make intentional decisions about how to engage challenging situations or emotions.

    That, in turn, requires a reasonable degree of self-awareness—I need to be able to notice when I’m getting overwhelmed, and take steps to manage my own intensity; and I need to be able to recognize when I am in full-on, self-protective survival mode, and it is time to take a break.

    It also requires me to know, and be able to act in consistency with, my own values. If I’m going to respond intentionally, I need some way of directing that response; and I need a way to assess whether it was what I intended—-did it get the result I wanted? Did it prioritize the things that matter to me? And—-am I able to hold myself accountable, without beating up in myself? Can I give myself credit, where credit is due?

    I also think mental health requires the ability to relate safely and effectively with others. That doesn’t mean I’m responsible for “making” others treat me in safe and non-violent ways—-it does mean that I’m responsible for treating others in safe and non-violent ways. It also means that I am able to tune into, and trust, my emotional and embodied responses to people. It means I can understand and voice the boundaries that help me to feel safe, and respect those from others. And it means that I’m able to maintain awareness of, and access to, the people and resources that can help me stay safe.

    That, of course, requires that I be able to trust people who are trustworthy, be able to connect with them in ways that we both agree to and enjoy/benefit from, and find ways of supporting both of our needs in balanced ways.

    I would also say that mental wellness requires the effective integration of hurt, harm, trauma, or/and relational injury. I don’t think that “integration” means magical impermeability, never feeling distress over distressing things, or not ever needing to work on something again. I do think it means cultivating a world- and self-view that doesn’t blame me for other people’s actions, finding effective ways to respond to and diminish intensity and overwhelm, and being able to engage in my daily life, without being perpetually hijacked by it.

    And: I think mental health and wellness is a process, not a product, which is why you won’t find a whole heck of a lot of people who can do everything on that list with perfect consistency! I feel like those are the aspirational goals that I tend to work from—-with the understanding that we won’t get all the way there, because there is no “there,” there. We and our lives are in constant flux and change, so—-responsiveness to that is also going to have to change over time.

    Also, I’m not going to go way into it, because it isn’t what you asked—-but I do believe there’s an extent to which mental health depends on people’s basic needs being met. Harm reduction is a thing; safety planning is a thing; keeping your head down and getting out alive is a thing. Those are important, because survival is important. And: survival is not the same thing as living well. A prerequisite for everyone being mentally healthy emphatically is: everyone having food to eat, everyone having a safe place to sleep, everyone being able to access medical care, everyone being free to exist safely in the world as themself. Mental wellness is a social and familial imperative, as well as an individual one.

    What Is Mental Health?

    Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

    Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, your thinking, mood, and behavior could be affected. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

    • Biological factors, such as genes or brain chemistry
    • Life experiences, such as trauma or abuse
    • Family history of mental health problems

    Mental health problems are common but help is available. People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

    Early Warning Signs

    Not sure if you or someone you know is living with mental health problems? Experiencing one or more of the following feelings or behaviors can be an early warning sign of a problem:

    • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
    • Pulling away from people and usual activities
    • Having low or no energy
    • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
    • Having unexplained aches and pains
    • Feeling helpless or hopeless
    • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
    • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
    • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
    • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
    • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
    • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
    • Thinking of harming yourself or others
    • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

    Learn more about specific mental health problems and where to find help.

    Mental Health and Wellness

    Positive mental health allows people to:

    • Realize their full potential
    • Cope with the stresses of life
    • Work productively
    • Make meaningful contributions to their communities

    Ways to maintain positive mental health include:

    • Getting professional help if you need it
    • Connecting with others
    • Staying positive
    • Getting physically active
    • Helping others
    • Getting enough sleep
    • Developing coping skills

    There is hardly a term in current psychological thought as vague, elusive and ambiguous as the term “mental health”. We commonly use “mental health” as a term interchangeable with “mental illness”, the same euphemistic way that “public health” generally refers to the prevention or control of disease by mass methods. Just as health involves more than the absence of a physical illness, mental health is more than theabsence of a mental illness.

    1. Citing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of mental health here,’ mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes 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.’
    2. Mental health is the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity. It is a component of overall health and is shaped by individual, physical environment, social cultural and socio-economic characteristics.

    Looking at mental health in the first way will lead to a classification of individuals as more or less healthy; looking at it in the second way, will lead to a classification of actions as more of less healthy. The relevance of this distinction can be illustrated with an example concerning physical health .

    Take a strong man with a bad cold. According to the first, he is healthy ; according to the second, he is sick. Both statements are justifiable anduseful. But utter confusion will result if either of these correct diagnoses is made in the wrong context- that is, if he is regarded as a permanently sick person or as one who is functioning healthily. Much of the confusion in the area of mental health stems from the failure to establish whether one is talking about mental health as an enduring attribute of a person or as a momentary attribute of functioning.

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    When you don’t have mental health, it might change your perspective on what mental health is. The list provided by User-11339196036930217825 is interesting. I like the psychodynamic version best of all because it leaves the most room for differences without judging, I think.

    I’m told I’m bipolar. Right now, I’m feeling a great deal of despair. I don’t want anyone in the real world to know. I’m feeling a lack of love — which is one of the criteria of the psychodynamicists. I’ve been thinking that the depth of my despair about ever being able to have the kind of love I want is such that nonexistence would be preferable.

    Fortunately, I have children, and I couldn’t do that to them.But it does condemn me to a life of enduring pain.

    I’ve been trying to find love. But when I find it, I destroy it. I feel like there are two parts of my brain. One is desperate to make me healthy and the other is equally convinced that I do not deserve any happiness, because it will inevitably come at the expense of the happiness of people I love. I am trapped. And trapped creatures do irrational things.

    So even though I have a diagnosis, I don’t really believe I’m mentally ill. I think I am in an untenable situation, and I am doing the best I can, given the impossibility of my options. There is no way out for me. Sometimes I can cope with that and sometimes the pain becomes too much and I have an “episode” of “depression.”

    To get out of this, I will have to choose to hurt someone I love very much. My wife, in specific. Somehow, I can not do this. Not yet, anyway.

    If I liked booze or drugs, I would dull my pain. But I like my brain to feel clear more than I dislike the pain of despair. That’s probably enough to get me diagnosed right there.

    I don’t think I’m really mentally ill. I think I’m healthy enough. Indeed, I think most people who are diagnosed don’t have much illness. I believe they are mostly trapped in situations where they have no way out, without hurting someone they love. So they take it out on themselves. For most of us, the problem is love. We are not allowed to love the person or in the way we need to, because to do so, would be to incur the wrath of most people.

    So mental health is sustained by love. Mental illness happens when you can not, for whatever reason, express your love in an acceptable way.

    When you can’t love the way you want to, you do all kinds of things that people call mental illness. You use mind altering substances all the time. You cut yourself, starve yourself, deny yourself happiness. You call yourself names. You deny your own worth. You dissassociate inside your head, and form multiple self entities that war with each other. Sometimes we experience these entities as voices or people from outside.

    We do all kinds of things to distract ourselves from the pain. Spend money. Act out in all kinds of ways. Stop caring about ourselves. Act violent on occasion. We do antisocial things in order to call attention to ourselves and maybe get help. Except almost everyone only sees the antisocial and weird behavior. No one sees through to the need for love. Not even most others who are diagnosed. No one, as far as I know, is talking about this. Not that I have done a lit review. But I’d expect to hear about it somewhere.

    I know when I talk about it to mentally ill people, they often nod their heads at me, as if it makes sense. Maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see. Or maybe the psychological profession has been totally missing the boat for a very long time.

    Naw. Couldn’t be. They all have a lot of education. They must know what they are doing. Right?

    Read through Girard’s list again. Is there anything there that is concrete and not open to a lot of interpretation? I think mental illness is still like pornography to the Supreme Court. The professionals know it when they see it. Not that my definition would change that. But maybe it would start people thinking along a line of thought that could actually help some of us. Maybe society would begin to understand their role — the role of judging others and the harm that causes.

    You can’t make people love. You can’t just give people love. But there must be an easier way. Perhaps acknowledging this is the problem and the solution would make it easier for us to find a way to be healthy.

    There is a wide range of human behavior. There are potentially an infinite number of attributes of human behavior that an individual could be measured on. Once you have measured a large number of humans on a scale, you have a normal distribution of behavior on that spectrum.

    Mental health is defined statistically in that we consider people healthy if they are not in the five percent of people who score at the far ends of that behavior distribution. Or sometimes we say the twenty percent of people who are in the tails of the distribution are unhealthy. Or sometimes we say one end of the distribution is unhealthy, but the other end is just super high achieving.

    If you score people on a wide variety of measures, and they end up scoring in the tail ends of the distribution on a large number of these measures, it is fairly easy to say that person is mentally ill. In fact, psychiatrists do use a number of different questionnaires to attempt to see how various individuals fare when compared to everyone else. That, however, is not the end of the assessment process.

    There is also a lot of impressionistic diagnosis going on. Psychiatrists will take a history and then see how well that history fits known histories of other mentally ill people. We’re looking at stories here, and that is a subjective process.

    Mental health, boiled down, is an impression, based on some objective data and some subjective data, that a person behaves sufficiently differently from the rest of the population that they will have a problem getting along in society. Diagnosis is influenced by culture, though not determined by it completely. The notion of mental health changes over time as we learn more about human psychology and do more research.

    With people who are wildly different from others, it may be fairly easy to reach a diagnosis. But with people who are on the edges of being different enough, it becomes more difficult to make a diagnosis. Mental health is conferred on those who don’t have a diagnosis and who don’t strike others as having a psychological problem of some kind.

    Mental health is the term that we use widely these days. It is the need of the hour. Mental health is not just a mere absence of mental illnesses. It also includes many aspects of an individual and his/her life. It encompasses all the aspects of cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral well being. Thus a better mental health leads to a better daily functioning, better relationships and a sense of life satisfaction.

    Mental health is defined 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” ((Summary Report) Geneva: World Health Organization; 2004 ).

    • A state of well- being of an individual: Includes good health, high level of life satisfaction and therefore a good quality of life. It specifically emphasizes psychological well-being.
    • Realizing one’s abilities: Refers to self actualization, unfolding one’s potentialities.
    • Coping with the normal stresses of life: Our life is a balance of everything. There must be a balance between the positive and negative. Stresses up to some level enable us to push our limits. They motivate us towards performing the problem solving behaviors. The individuals who irrespective of facing stresses in life can cope easily with them and still remain satisfied with their life are the one’s having good mental health.
    • Work productively and fruitfully: All individuals have goals in their life. These goals also include the need for safety, shelter and love. When people are not distracted by these stresses and continue moving towards their goal, they are said to be productive and fruitful.
    • Making a contribution to the society: Humans are the resources that lead us towards national development as well as towards the development of the world. Therefore, if an individual maintains his/her well being, realizes one’s abilities and thus works towards them in a productive manner, then that individual directly or indirectly contributes to the society. We can also say that a mentally healthy individual leads to a mentally healthy society.

    I explain mental health as the acquisition, maintenance or decline of extrapersonal, interpersonal and intrapersonal relationship factors that dictate one’s life. There’s unfortunately a tendency to see mental health issues from the state of deficiency versus progress or improvement.

    I am aware that there are those who have no interest in improving for a myriad of reasons. I also understand that some mental health states are induced from dysfunctional upbringing states, socialization that has engendered second-class thinking, repeated harassment, mal-adaptive generational patterns and workplace bullying and/or violence (among other situations).

    Some modern day examples of manifestations of mental health deficiencies include the(se):

    Sandy Hook killer

    Batman movie shooter

    Craigslist killer

    Bath salts sniper

    Meth heads

    Crack heads


    Pedophiles/hebephiles such as Sandusky, Weinstein

    Serial rapists

    David Koresh

    Jim Jones, the Caucasian Guyana preacher

    Columbine high school shooters

    Incarcerated prisoners that rape other prisoners

    Catholic priests with unresolved homosexual tendencies

    Military veterans who became disillusioned

    Numerous survivors of violence

    There’s a tendency to overlook those with more euthmyic mental health states. Unfortunately with the preponderance to focus on interesting stories that are controversial and more profitable for major network corporations, less frightening and disturbing stories are not as popular or marketable. Some streaming services have caught on to this to increase ratings and to draw in more customers.

    Mental health interestingly enough has a huge impact on our physical states. Constant stress is proven to increase glucose levels (and it’s worse at the acute level for obvious reasons), increases cortisol which predisposes many to the obesity epidemic that is notably analogous to the American way of life, increases the propensity for those who are on the verge of enacting homicidal or suicidal tendencies to act on those impulses and thus hurt others or themselves in a severe physical way.

    Mental health is the all-encompassing collective of our thoughts (which effect our actions), emotions, memories (both good and bad) and our sense of self-worth. Deficiencies in any of these areas contribute to mal-adaptive behaviors noted in the aforementioned individuals.

    Hope this helps as you find further enlightening answers.

    How do you need it to happen in this way.

    There are many answers to this question within the field of psychology. Here are some of them.

    From the World Health Organization (WHO):

    • “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.”

    The absence of psychopathology (i.e., no psychological disorder). Lack of:

    • Deviance (i.e., culturally unacceptable behavior)
    • Distress (i.e., dysphoria)
    • Dysfunction (i.e., impairment)
    • Danger (i.e., violent behavior towards self or others)

    The Positive Psychology movement defines mental health as the presence of psychological well-being. One such model is by Keyes & Lopez (2002) and includes:

    • High emotional well-being,
    • High psychological well-being,
    • High social well-being, and
    • Low mental illness

    Another by Fredrickson & Losada (2005) describes “flourishing” as optimal human functioning composed of:

    • Goodness: happiness, contentment, and effective performance
    • Generativity: making life better for future generations
    • Growth: use of personal and social assets
    • Resilience: survival and growth after enduring a hardship

    From Acceptance & Commitment Therapy:

    • Psychological flexibility

    From the psychodynamic orientation, according to Shedler & Westen (2007):

    • Is able to use his/her talents, abilities, and energy effectively and productively.
    • Enjoys challenges; takes pleasure in accomplishing things.
    • Is capable of sustaining a meaningful love relationship characterized by genuine intimacy and caring.
    • Finds meaning in belonging and contributing to a larger community (e.g., organization, church, neighborhood).
    • Is able to find meaning and fulfillment in guiding, mentoring, or nurturing others.
    • Is empathic; is sensitive and responsive to other people’s needs and feelings.
    • Is able to assert him/herself effectively and appropriately when necessary.
    • Appreciates and responds to humor.
    • Is capable of hearing information that is emotionally threatening (i.e., that challenges cherished beliefs, perceptions, and self-perceptions) and can use and benefit from it.
    • Appears to have come to terms with painful experiences from the past; has found meaning in and grown from such experiences.
    • Is articulate; can express self well in words.
    • Has an active and satisfying sex life.
    • Appears comfortable and at ease in social situations.
    • Generally finds contentment and happiness in life’s activities.
    • Tends to express affect appropriate in quality and intensity to the situation at hand.
    • Has the capacity to recognize alternativepoints, even in matters that stir up strong feelings.
    • Has moral and ethical standards and strives to live up to them.
    • Is creative; is able to see things or approach problems in novel ways.
    • Tends to be conscientious and responsible.
    • Tends to be energetic and outgoing.
    • Is psychologically insightful; is able to understand self and others in subtle and sophisticated ways.
    • Is able to find meaning and satisfaction in the pursuit of long-term goals and ambitions.
    • Is able to form close and lasting friendships characterized by mutual support and sharing of experiences.

    Keyes, a professor at Emory University, defines the following as the three core pillars of mental health: emotional well-being (happiness & satisfaction), psychological well-being (autonomy, strong relationships with others, sense of purpose, etc.) and social well-being (positively contributing to society).

    Despite popular belief, mental health is not an absence of mental illness, in fact both are measured on two different spectrums. Similar to how one can have a poor physical health with no physical illness, one can have poor mental health with no mental illness.

    Many believe that the main component of flourishing mental health is blissful happiness. This is not the case, someone who has good mental health still experiences sadness, anger and frustration in their life. However, a factor that differentiates them from an individual with poor mental health is their resilience and ability to overcome these situations, achieving this “dynamic equilibrium”.

    The Committee on Ethical Issues of the European Psychiatric Association has proposed mental health to be defined as

    A dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium

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