Posted 04/05/2019 4:24:48 PM by Vanessa Smit

This year marks the 68th CMHA Mental Health Week. From May 6th – 12th CMHA invites Canadians in communities, schools, workplaces and the House of Commons to #GetLoud about what mental health is.

So, what is mental health? Often when people think of mental health, they think of mental health issues and mental illness. Mental health encompasses all aspects of well-being including social, physical, psychological and emotional. We all have mental health. We may have a mental illness or a mental health issue and we may not. Either way, we all have mental health and, similar to how we all have physical health, it affects us all.

Instead of thinking about mental health as good/bad or positive/negative, it can be more useful to think about our mental health on a continuum with one end as minimal well-being and the other as optimal well-being. A continuum is helpful because it demonstrates that our mental health often fluctuates and varies.

Mental Health vs. Mental Illness—What’s the Difference?

When on the topic of mental health vs. mental illness, it’s important to clearly distinguish between the two. Now that we have a better understanding of what mental health is, let’s touch on mental illness.

Mental illness is something that causes major changes in a person’s emotional state and behaviour. It can disrupt that person’s ability to work, connect socially and do things that are important or meaningful to them. Simply put, there are criteria that need to be met in order to receive a diagnosis for a mental illness or disorder.

With this in mind, positioning mental health on a continuum allows us to differentiate it from mental illness. For example, someone may have a mental illness, but that doesn’t mean they have minimal well-being. We know that people can live rich and full lives while experiencing mental illness and, thus, have optimal well-being. Moreover, someone may not meet the diagnosable criteria for mental illness, but they may be experiencing minimal well-being.

Wrapping Up

How would you rate your mental well-being at this moment? You might want to think about the different aspects of well-being mentioned earlier—social, physical, psychological and emotional. You can think about things such as:

  • Isolating yourself from others vs. connecting with people around you.
  • Procrastinating with what you need to do vs. taking action steps towards what is important to you.
  • Feeling disconnected from your passions vs. engaging in the things that bring you joy.
  • Your ability to cope with difficult thoughts and emotions.

Reflecting on the above mentioned behaviours and cognitive and emotional processes can help give you insight into your mental health and your mental well-being. Remember, we all have mental health so let’s #GetLoud during CMHA Mental Health Week!

For young people ages 13-30 who are interested in supporting their mental well-being, the Y has free mental wellness programs across the Lower Mainland. Our programs connect young people through psychoeducational, group-based workshops that also help foster belonging and connection.

Interested in participating? Find a YMCA mental health program near you.

Edited by: Vanessa Smit

About Vanessa Smit

Vanessa is a Marketing and Communications Manager based out of Vancouver. Don't be surprised if you find her researching cause related initiatives, French Bulldog puppies, playing in the sun or watching Raptors games. She's inspired by seeing and learning about engaging marketing campaigns, especially ones that help increase awareness of mission-driven initiatives—ask for examples, she would be happy to share!

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