What Happened to the ‘Health’ in ‘Mental Health’

What Happened to the ‘Health’ in ‘Mental Health’

When we talk about mental health, we aren’t talking about health. We’re actually talking about the lack of health. ‘Mental health’, as a term, attempts to signify the state of one’s mental well being, but it has become more synonymous with “mental illness” or the lack of mental health.

You can observe a similar trend with the study of psychology. The study of psychology focuses on situations where mental health, per say, is lacking or off balance. Rather, when mental function is unhealthy. The fact that psychology focuses on what is missing from mental health, or how one has fallen “mentally ill” and must be restored back to their mental health, spurred the need for a topic called positive psychology.

Positive psychology, aside from being one of my favorite and most inspiring classes in college, covers the topic of mental flourishing and the idea of optimal mental functioning. It does not focus on illness, but rather focuses on betterment.

I’ve found this is similar to the way we talk about mental health today. Mental health, and talking about it, is often stained with a negative light, and makes you think of things like stigma, shame, and illness. And this might be ok for now. Well, not the stigma and shame part. That’s why I’m so open about my struggles with ‘mental health’. I believe that talking about it open and honestly is my way of attacking the stigma and shame head on. And I love doing it, but alas, mental health does not need to be seen in this way.

Regardless of what the conversations around mental health in this country have showed you, and what our medical community’s approach to mental health has showed you, you do not need to fall ill to take an interest in and prioritize your mental health.

Like positive psychology is to psychology, mental wellness can be to mental health. And there are so many ways that we can improve our state of mental wellness and make it a priority.

Here are some of the ways you can seek out mental wellness.

  1. Live authentically and purposefully
  2. Give yourself the time and outlets to find authenticity and purpose in you life – this can mean practices like meditation, reflection, mindfulness, or yoga
  3. Prioritize movement
  4. Treat your body and gut with compassion
  5. Be open to helping others and also set boundaries
  6. Cherish social support
  7. Listen to your body and let yourself rest

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and ways that you seek mental wellness! It’s something that is so near and dear to me, and I’ve incorporated into my course on stress management.

The reality is that everyone can benefit from prioritizing their mental health, or mental wellness. There are countless ways to do it and you need to believe that you deserve it.