Unpacking the Differences: Mental health vs mental wellbeing

Oct 10 / Nancy Morris

In our changing world, the World Health Organization (WHO) says, "there is no health without mental health." Even though people are starting to see how important mental health is, there's still a lot of misunderstanding and stigma.

One major reason for this is that people mix up two similar but different things: mental health and mental wellbeing. It's important to know the difference between these terms to have a better understanding of how to take care of our mental wellness.

Mental Health: The Clinical Side

Mental health from a clinical angle relates to a wide range of conditions and disorders that affect our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. These conditions can include mood disorders like clinical depression and bipolar disorder, long-term anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and personality disruptions. When someone has a mental health issue, they often need help from professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, or counselors. These problems can have a big impact on how someone goes about their daily life, how they relate to others, and how they function overall.

On the other hand, mental wellbeing is a broader view of mental health. It's not about not having a mental illness; it's about feeling good mentally and being able to handle life's challenges in a positive way. While mental health mostly deals with whether someone has been diagnosed with a clinical disorder, mental wellbeing looks at what makes life fulfilling and balanced.

Why the Mix-Up Matters

Confusing mental health with mental wellbeing causes a few problems:

1. Stigma Stays: When we think of mental health only as the absence of mental illness, it can lead to thinking that people with mental disorders are somehow flawed or dangerous. This kind of thinking keeps the stigma alive and makes it hard for people to seek help.

2. Missing Prevention: Focusing only on mental health conditions means we may forget to take steps to boost our mental wellbeing. We miss chances to learn how to prioritize our self-care, deal with stress, and build emotional strength.

3. Hard to Get Help: Misunderstanding mental health can make it tough for people to ask for help until their issues become serious. Getting help early can make a big difference, but the stigma often keeps people from seeking support.

Promoting Mental Wellbeing

To clear up these misunderstandings and promote mental wellbeing, we need to take a broader view:

1. Educate and Raise Awareness: We need to teach people the difference between mental health and mental wellbeing. Understanding that mental health is a spectrum and that taking care of our mental wellbeing is an important and ongoing process.

2. Reduce Stigma: We need to fight against the stereotypes and biases surrounding mental health. Everyone can be affected by mental health conditions, no matter their age, gender, or background. Talking openly about mental health can help break down these barriers.

3. Take Holistic Approaches: Communities, schools, and individuals can focus on strategies that boost mental wellbeing. This can include learning how to manage stress, improving emotional intelligence, practicing mindfulness, and building social connections. These approaches help us maintain good mental wellbeing and prevent mental disorders.

Understanding the difference between mental health and mental wellbeing is vital for grasping the complexity of mental wellness.

Misunderstanding these concepts keeps the stigma alive, hampers prevention efforts, and makes it tough to get help. By taking a broader view and valuing both mental health care and the promotion of mental wellbeing, we can create a society where mental wellness is a priority.

Remember, there is no health without mental health, and true health includes mental wellbeing.
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