Mental Health vs. Mental Illness

Mental Health vs. Mental Illness

Increasingly being used as if they mean the same thing, but they do not.

Mental health is a part of holistic wellbeing (physical, emotional, psychological). As the World Health Organization says, “There is no health without mental health’’

According to researchers, it has been estimated that 792 million people lived with a mental health illness. One in ten people globally suffers from mental illness (10.7%).


Sourced by- Sherry Benton

This model does not fit everyone’s experience. Mental illness and mental health are best understood as separate dimensions and both need to be addressed.

Mental Health

Like physical health, everyone has mental health. Physical health is the state of your body, and mental health is the state of your mind, feelings, and emotions.

When we talk about mental health, we’re talking about our mental well-being: our emotions, our thoughts, and feelings, our ability to solve problems and overcome difficulties, our social connections, and our understanding of the world around us.

Mental health is about how we think, feel, and behave; our cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “…a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to his or her community.” Mental health problems, disorders, and illnesses, therefore, interfere with the ability to achieve the condition of mental health.

Like physical health, mental health is always there, and it’s fine to have good and bad days. Physical health can influence mental health, both positively and negatively. So can life experiences, work or school environment, relationships, and the type of community you live in.

Being mentally healthy enables you to feel, think and act in ways that help you enjoy life and cope with its challenges. Poor mental health may result in feeling unhappy, difficulty thinking clearly, or feeling overwhelmed by stressful situations.

Our mental health can vary and be dependent on a number of factors which may include;

 ·         The number of demands and stressors we have

·         Our physical health

·         Significant life events

·         How much sleep we get

·         Relationships with other people

·         Our diet/ nutritional intake

·         Environmental, societal and cultural factors

·         How much we engage in leisure activities, hobbies, and interests

 Mental Illness

While mental health is always there and may be positive or negative, mental illness affects a person’s ability to function over a long period of time.

Mental illness is not the same as feeling sad, unhappy, or stressed because of difficult situations such as the death of a loved one, job loss or break up with a partner (although these events can contribute to mental illness). People with mental illness feel distressed regularly and may not feel in control of their lives.

Mental illness is a health problem that affects how a person thinks, behaves, and interacts with others. Mental illness is a group of illnesses that are often diagnosed through standard criteria. The term ‘mental disorder’ refers to the same health problems.

Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities.

Mental illness is treatable. The vast majority of individuals with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives.

Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social standing, religion, or race/ethnicity. People with mental illness often experience distress and problems functioning at work, at home, and in social situations. Mental illness is not something the person can “overcome with willpower,” and can be caused by biological factors such as genes or brain chemistry, trauma and abuse, and family history of mental illness.

We often think of our mental state as a continuum, with good mental health being at one end and diagnosable mental illness at the opposite end - and we are somewhere on this scale at any one time. While it’s true that our mental state is not constant – it moves about overtime References – this continuum model may not truly reflect the relationship between mental health and mental illness.

It’s helpful to think of mental health and mental illness as separate entities working independently. You can have good mental health but be living with a diagnosed mental illness that is being treated successfully. Or you can have poor mental health but not have a mental illness. 



Tanisha Dhingra

Content Intern

Jan. 23, 2021