Is there a definition of mental health? How can we define what mental health is and what it isn’t? When mental health can be experienced so differently and there are still some people who don’t believe in mental health, how can we come up with a single definition?
If we turn first to the dictionary then we find that the definition is of mental health as a noun; a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.
For a crowd-sourced answer (with sources) we look at Wikipedia, where the definition is: Mental health is the level of psychological well-being or an absence of mental illness. It is the state of someone who is “functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioural adjustment”.
And being based in the UK, we obviously thought we should check our national health service’s definition: The definition of mental health in the national ‘No Health without Mental Health’ policy is that it is a positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment.
At a global level, the WHO defines mental health as: “a state of well-being in which the individual realises 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”.
There is a clear trend of defining mental health in a positive state, that mental health is positive and the absence of it is negative. The Mental Health Lab thinks of mental health as more of a neutral observation of state that could be anywhere on the spectrum from negative to positive – closer to the explanation of the dictionary.
There are interesting overlaps and comparisons to be made when looking at how physical health is defined – let alone when we consider how mental and physical health are intertwined and co-dependent.