Mental Health: What is It Really?

Mental Health
Mental Health (Photo credit: homelesshub)

The term “mental health” has always confused me. What does it really mean? It is often used as a nice, polite euphemism for mental illness, as in “people who have mental health problems,” ranging from anxiety/depression to serious schizophrenia. Substance abuse/addiction, developmental delays, intellectual disability (old term ‘mental retardation’) are typically thrown in the mix.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as a ” state of well-being in which everyindividual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normalstresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

However you personally define ‘mental health/mental illness,’ we all know that any of the recognized disorders carry with them heavy stigma and discrimination. For the WHO Human Rights Day (celebrated December 10th) this year, they launched MiNDbank: “an online platform bringing together country and international resources, covering mental health, substance abuse,
disability, general health, human rights and development. It is part of
WHO’s QualityRights campaign to end violations against people with
mental disabilities. MiNDbank aims to facilitate dialogue, advocacy and
research, to promote reform in these areas in line with international
human rights
and best practice standards.” It is quite user-friendly and I encourage you to check it out.

The holidays are always a particularly difficult time for people with any mental health ‘issue.’ What with the family dynamics, pressure to be happy and merry, holiday parties full of alcoholic beverages–not to mention the cold, nasty, dark weather in Northern latitudes–it’s enough to make any of us more than a bit stressed out. So try to reach out to neighbors and friends you think might need extra TLC this time of year, and make sure they are O.K..

And consider writing/submitting a non-fiction essay related to mental health for the wonderful people at Creative Nonfiction who are putting together an anthology on mental health. Here are the details from their website:

Deadline: March 1, 2014

For an upcoming anthology, In Fact Books seeks essays by
writers with insight into the nature and experience of profound
psychiatric challenges—as patients, mental health professionals, or
both. We want well-written, true narratives about the enigmatic, creative,
frustrating, and triumphant moments of the recovery process and the
therapeutic journey. Scientific information should be balanced by the
writer’s unique perspective, and the stories should combine a strong and
compelling narrative with an informative or reflective element,
reaching beyond a strictly personal experience for some universal or
deeper meaning. Essays must be evocative, vivid, and dramatic. We’re looking for well-written prose, rich with detail and a distinctive voice; all essays
must tell true stories and be factually accurate.

Guidelines: Essays must be previously
unpublished and no longer than 4,500 words. Multiple entries are
welcome, as are entries from outside the United States. You may submit essays online or by regular mail: By regular mail  Postmark deadline March 1, 2014. Please send your manuscript; a cover letter with complete contact
information, including the title of the essay and word count; and an
SASE or email for response to: In Fact Books c/o Creative Nonfiction Foundation Attn: Mental Health 5501 Walnut Street, Suite 202Pittsburgh, PA 15232. Online Deadline to upload files: 11:59 pm EST March 1, 2014

3 thoughts on “Mental Health: What is It Really?

  1. WSJ had an article today about the shortage of psychiatrists. It strikes me that about 50% of psychiatrists are within 10 years of retiring. It looks like a perfect storm: poor funding, poor response to manpower studies and economic stress for people on the margins.


    1. We’ll then they should be looking at creating more programs and better funding for nurse practitioner programs. Which will be all the more difficult now that they require a doctorate. Nice article Josephine


      1. Hi Nina,
        I agree to a point but we really need better working conditions for all nurses, including hospital-based RNs–plus better pay for community/public health nurses.


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