So what is the difference between Mental illness and Mental health?
Mental Illness: According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (2013, nami.org) a mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.
So what is Mental Health?
Mental health, as defined by the Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health, “refers to the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.”
Mental health refers to our cognitive, and/or emotional wellbeing; is how about how we think, feel and behave. Mental health, if somebody has it, can also mean an absence of a mental disorder. Mental health also includes a person’s ability to enjoy life – to attain a balance between life activities and efforts to achieve psychological resilience (October 19, 2013, Newstoday.com).
One thing I find that I psychoeducate a lot about is that a mental illness, because there are different types, can be like the Cold or flu, at some point someone has had a mental illness. A big one being anxiety. I have yet to see a human not have anxiety in this lifetime. It’s a normal response to life sometimes. It’s a natural response to help you alert you… What then makes it an illness is when you don’t know how to work through it. And note I said THROUGH it. Because just like a cold or flu, it is a process. You have to let the symptoms takes its course. And No, I am not saying that a mental illness is a virus. It’s a simile. So let me give you another example, Its like having headaches… it’s a response to your body that alerts you, that makes you see that something is off your personal balance.
You see, people who live, that would be us… go through life and push through and are resilient and make things happen, because we are “health” that does not obtain us from having anxiety when we are stressed or sadness when someone passes. All these things being, it is a “normal” response to how our body reacts to pain.
It’s when it gets out of “control” that we begin to suffer with the Mental illness labels. If you don’t rest and you keep chugging with a simple cold, it can turn into pneumonia (label) right? So a mental illness is the same.
As a psychotherapist, I’m constantly psychoeducating how a mental illness is not a fault of anyone. It’s an illness. Just like the flu where you have to rest up and take meds if you need to and then try to sort it all out and get better. It takes time, want and patience. Just like a lot of things we already go through in this world.
I hope this gives you a little bit of new or supportive knowledge.
Disclaimer: If you do need help, please seek it. Call your physician, doctor, mental health therapist, advocate, 911 if it is emergent, or contact your local NAMI offices for support.