Understanding Mental Health and Mental Illness

To progress collective action to prevent mental ill-health and promote mental health and wellbeing, we need to first have a shared understanding of what is meant by the terms mental health and mental ill-health.

‘Mental health’ is sometimes misunderstood and interpreted as referring to mental ill-health.  This may be because historically ‘mental health services’ were mainly concerned with the treatment of mental illness. However, mental health is a desirable quality in its own right and is more than the absence of illness. 

Mental health and mental-ill health are influenced by one another but are not polar opposites.  The absence of mental health does not necessarily mean the presence of mental ill-health. Similarly, if someone has a mental illness, this does not mean a complete absence of mental health.  

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