There are two terms people constantly use interchangeably yet they do not mean the same thing. Well, they are not the only two terms, phrases or words used interchangeably in the English diction but they are my focus for today. I have more times than I can count seen mental health advocates and enthusiasts use the terms mental health and mental illness interchangeably.
As people who are creating awareness of mental health, it is important to use the phrases as they should to give an accurate description of what it really means.
According to the World Health Organization Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can come with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.
Mental illness is a condition which causes significant distress or impairment in personal functioning and affect mood thinking and behaviour.
There is a difference between the two even from the definitions. Mental illness is a condition which causes significant distress while mental health is a state of well being.
That part of the definition is where the major difference is. Not too long ago I was asked to fill a questionnaire as a psychology student. The one who drafted the questionnaire had major errors after interchanging the terms of mental health and mental illness.
For example, some of the questions read
Do you know someone who has ever suffered a mental health condition?
Do you know of any mental health Disorders?
Do you know of a place that treats mental health illnesses?
You see, this is the kind of thing I am talking about. Yet this is how we speak. Well, it may be because you do not know but after today please do not repeat the same mistake. It is detrimental to creating awareness accurately.
You can even read the questions above and for sure, they do not sound correct but that is the same thing we do.
There is nothing like a mental health condition. As defined earlier mental illness is the condition. There is nothing like mental health illnesses. It is simply a mental illness. There is nothing like mental health disorders, it is simply a mental disorder.
Why is this important? One may suffer from a mental illness and still be mentally healthy. One may have depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, schizoaffective, PTSD, anxiety disorders, and still be mentally healthy. Why? The illness is the condition, but for as long as they can cope and function socially and professionally they are mentally healthy.
Watch A Beautiful Mind and see how one can live a normal life with a mental illness.