Popular Misconception: Mental Illness Means Unwellness

'Mental health' is one of those topics that is surrounded by misconception and misunderstanding. Far too often, people jump to the conclusion that when someone talks about their mental health, they are referring to "psychological problems" or "instability" on a cognitive and/or emotional level. Furthermore, when the term "mental illness" comes into play, people jump to other inaccurate conclusions, assuming that this term indicates things like: "being mentally unstable," "experiencing emotional suffering," "having problems," and so on.

Conclusions of either sort are inaccurate.

Mental health does not automatically refer to a problematic state of mind. Instead, mental health is a concept that refers to someone's mental wellbeing. It's just like when we talk about physical health; or, more specifically, cardiovascular health, muscular-skeletal health, and so on. The level of someone's wellbeing - regardless of what plain is being looked at - can vary. For example, one person can have good cardiovascular health while another has not so good cardiovascular health. Similarly, one person can have good mental health while another has not so good mental health. Furthermore, just because someone does have poor mental health, does not mean that they have a mental illness; and similarly, just because someone has good mental health, does not mean that they don't have a mental illness!

The 'Mental Health Continuum' is a fabulous framework that outlines this phenomenon - that is, that:

  • someone can have a mental illness yet have good mental health

  • someone can not have a mental illness yet poor mental health

The other two parts of the continuum highlight that:

  • someone with a mental illness can have poor mental health, and;

  • someone without a mental illness can have good mental health

By coming to recognize and understand this, there will be much greater understanding of what mental health truly refers to.

Perhaps this is n "A-ha" moment for you?

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