Mental Health: Not Just the Absence of Mental Disorders
Most people think that mental health only applies to those people who have diagnosable mental disorders. The truth is ALL of us should be concerned about our mental health. It is our basis of being healthy. It is the holistic approach to health. In fact, many people adhere to the belief that mental health is the core of healthiness. Health starts and ends with mental health. It encompasses everything and it is everybody's business.
For virtually all people, mental health is often neglected until something apparently becomes wrong. Until then, we will have to wait for signs that it is vital to our existence, to our well being, to our relationships with other people, to our perceptions, to our fulfillment and even to our own happiness.
Even though we have achieved great medical advancements, there still seems to be lacks in our general knowledge on mental health. We have developed quick fixes to our physical ailments but we are left far behind with our solutions to mental illnesses. If we have anything, there still remain some loopholes and what we know is inconclusive. We haven't developed universal treatments for psychological disorders and even assessments and diagnosis of such ailments are flawed.
In the past, the general concept for being healthy is the "absence of disease". If so, then someone who doesn't have diagnosable heart attack but experience irrational fear on something like chicken or heights is a healthy person. In fact, no.
While blood pressure, cholesterol level, and body temperature are easy to asses these are still seen as singular components of our health. Disruptions in these mechanisms mean that a person could be physically ill. However, the health of a person is not only associated to how well his body functions but also to how well are his psychological, emotional and social dispositions. Manifestations of mental illness are much harder to asses since most symptoms occur discreetly during the developmental stages of the disorders and internal states are dependent on the subjective nature of the disorder. For example, someone who usually feels "blue" may or may not be diagnosed with depression.
We also have to take into account the social aspect of mental health. People who have sickness have more obvious manifestations that they are ill, therefore the society and immediate environment could easily identify whether or not a person is sick. For mental health, however, ignorance could lead to wrong perceptions. For example, a teenager who became drug-dependent and later committed suicide is viewed as irresponsible and desperate when in fact he may be suffering from a psychological disorder.
A simplistic definition to mental health could be "successful mental functioning". But what are the parameters of this definition? What could possibly tell us that someone is struggling through mental illness?
a) Someone who is distressed for a prolonged period without apparent, logical reason.
b) Someone who has disruptions in thinking
c) Someone who has altered behaviors and moods
d) Someone who relies on substances such as drugs, alcohol and cigarettes may have issues on their mental health
e) Someone who has impaired social functions
These are just representations of how a person with mental health may behave. However, these are not conclusive bases.
As we may yet to understand, mental health is directly correlated with physical ailment or health. Both may be one and the same but are very different in nature.