Here’s a small challenge for you. Search for the term “mental health” on Google and begin examining the some 397 million results and try to find a single one that actually refers to mental health rather than mental illness. Therapies, programs, professional listings, organizations and associations, advice and suggestions…all geared around mental illness. You will find few if any words about mental health itself.
Part of the reason for this is the stigma that is unfortunately attached to mental illness. Referring to “mental illness” as “mental health” seems to make the topic less threatening. But misusing using the term in this way prevents paying attention to mental health itself and the value of considering it separately from mental illness.
Another part of the problem is that “mental health” has lacked a workable definition (past tense intended). It is most frequently considered as simply the absence of mental illness, but being free of mental illness does not mean that one is necessarily mentally healthy. When pressed for a definition, the most likely response is only a reference to the qualities and characteristics of a mentally healthy person, which is not a definition at all. Absent a workable definition, one does not know what to strive for or how to achieve it.
Even though free of mental illness, it is still possible to improve your mental health, thus improving the overall quality of your life. You will feel better about yourself, your relationships will improve, you will accomplish more and more choices will be available to you than you ever imagined.
See the Foundations of Mental Health for a definition of what mental health is, how to optimize it and how to recognize obstacles that sometimes compromise it.
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