What is the definition of Mental Health?

Definition of Mental Health

The definition of mental health involves how we think, feel and behave. It impacts on daily life, relationships and can sometimes affect physical health. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as ‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.

Just like physical health, mental health is vulnerable to change. In the same way a person can catch a cold or virus and be physically unwell for a time, you can also experience mental health disorders. These disorders can influence thinking, mood and behaviour. Just like physical conditions some mental health disorders are temporary and others are lifelong. People with mental health disorders can get better and manage their disorder with help and some may recover completely. 

Similarly to physical conditions mental health disorders can sometimes be traced to a contributing factor. These include:

Biological factors – due to genes and brain chemistry some people are more susceptible to mental health disorders. 

Life experiences – trauma and abuse can result in mental health disorders

Family history of mental health disorders 

Mental Health Awareness

Understanding the definition of Mental health and its problems can be difficult. Often people will live with their condition unaware they are struggling with a genuine problem. Unlike physical health, mental health isn’t always obvious and given the seriousness it requires. If you broke your leg you would immediately go and get it fixed. When we experience mental health problems it can be easier to think it is something that can’t be fixed and you just have to live with it. This attitude is wrong and dangerous. Mental health disorder are real and debilitating. Nobody should experience mental health problems without information, support and help to manage the disorder and recover. 

Signs of Mental Health Disorders 

Mental health problems may be present if a person experiences one or more of the following feelings or behaviours:

Eating or sleeping in a different way to usual. Perhaps too much or too little

Spending less time with 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

Shouting or fighting with family and friends

Severe mood swings  

New problems in relationships

Repeatedly going over thoughts and memories

Hearing voices or believing things that are not true

Thinking of harming yourself or others

Difficulty or inability to carry out normal daily tasks

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health problems are very common. These can range from disorders such as anxiety to more serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. Promoting good mental health can impact on physical health and improve many other aspects of people’s lives. This can help people:

Achieve their potential

Manage and cope with stress

Work productively

Engage with their local community

Some ways to achieve and maintain good mental health include:

Being aware of warning signs

Seeking professional help when needed

Creating and maintaining relationships 

Regular physical activity

Sleeping and eating well

Learning and using coping skills

How can Mental Health be promoted in the Workplace?

Mental health awareness is particularly important in the workplace. Importantly it is where many people spend much of their time and it can be a stressful and fast paced environment. Organisations can promote mental health by providing:

Access to appropriate training

Promote mental health prevention in day to day work

Raise awareness of mental health and it’s importance

Encourage and accommodate healthy lifestyles with good food available, time away from desks or work stations and opportunity for physical activity.

Our online training on stress at work can be found here