Mental health is a term used to describe either a level of cognitive or emotional wellbeing or an absence of a mental disorder. From perspectives of the discipline of positive psychology or holism mental health may include an individual's ability to enjoy life, procure a balance between life activities, and efforts to achieve psychological resilience.
The World Health Organization states that there is no one "official" definition of mental health. Cultural differences, subjective assessments, and competing professional theories all affect how "mental health" is defined.
In the mid 19th century William Sweetzer was the first to introduce an idea of mental hygiene. Isaac Ray, one of thirteen founders of the American Psychiatric Association, further defined mental hygiene as an art to preserve the mind against incidents and influences which would inhibit or destroy its energy, quality or development. At the beginning of the 20th century, Clifford Whittingham Beers founded the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and opened the first outpatient mental health clinic in the United States.
Template:Refimprovesect Mental health can be seen as a continuum, wherein an individual's mental health may have many different possible values. Mental wellness is generally viewed as a positive attribute, such that a person can reach enhanced levels of mental health, even if they do not have any diagnosable mental health condition. This definition of mental health highlights emotional well being, the capacity to live a full and creative life, and the flexibility to deal with life's inevitable challenges. Many therapeutic systems and self-help books offer methods and philosophies espousing strategies and techniques vaunted as effective for further improving the mental wellness of otherwise healthy people. Positive psychology is increasingly prominent in mental health.
A holistic model of mental health generally includes concepts based upon anthropological, educational, psychological, religious and sociological perspectives, as well as theoretical perspectives from personality, social, clinical, health and developmental psychology.
An example of a wellness model includes one developed by Myers, Sweeny and Witmer. It includes five life tasks — essence or spirituality, work and leisure, friendship, love and self-direction—and twelve sub tasks—sense of worth, sense of control, realistic beliefs, emotional awareness and coping, problem solving and creativity, sense of humor, nutrition, exercise, self care, stress management, gender identity, and cultural identity—are identified as characteristics of healthy functioning and a major component of wellness. The components provide a means of responding to the circumstances of life in a manner that promotes healthy functioning.
Lack of a mental disorder
Mental health can also be defined as an absence of a major mental health condition.
Cultural and religious considerations
Mental health can be socially constructed and socially defined; that is, different professions, communities, societies and cultures have very different ways of conceptualizing its nature and causes, determining what is mentally healthy, and deciding what interventions are appropriate. Thus, different professionals will have different cultural and religious backgrounds and experiences, which may impact the methodology applied during treatment.
Many mental health professionals are beginning to, or already understand, the importance of competency in religious diversity and spirituality. The American Psychological Association explicitly states that religion must be respected. Education in spiritual and religious matters is also required by the American Psychiatric Association.
Mental health profession
A number of professions have developed specializing in mental disorders, including the medical speciality of psychiatry, divisions of psychology known as clinical psychology, abnormal psychology, positive psychology, clinical or mental health social work, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychotherapists, counselors and public Health professionals. Different clinical and academic professions tend to favor differing models, explanations and goals.
- Dissociation (psychology)
- Mental disorder
- Mental health professional
- Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV
Related disciplines and specialties
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- International Mental Health
- Mental Health Department of Health (United Kingdom)
- National Institute of Mental Health (United States)
- Like Minds, Like Mine (New Zealand)