What’s the deal with “Mental Health”?

Michelle Bentley

mental health, mental illness, well-being, self care, wellness

Our understanding of mental health is changing. On days when I am rushing between commitments and feeling frazzled, when I overreact in a hurtful way to something someone does or says (usually someone I care about, too!), or when I find myself forgetting what intent took me from one room to another, then I don’t feel very mentally healthy.

A friend of mine is experiencing depression, yet with the supports she has put in place and her resolve to make healthy decisions daily, she is enjoying mental health in the midst of mental illness.

Mental health can influence how much we are able to enjoy life or bounce back from disappointments or frustrations with a sense of hopefulness. It can hinder our ability to recognize and build on our strengths, or cause us to be inflexible in the way we experience emotions, preventing us from expressing them in healthy ways. When we have a high level of mental health, we are able to balance our time and energy amid the physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives while also recognizing and acting on any areas in which we need to make changes. Such changes might include taking a daily walk, arranging a weekly game night with family or friends, reading a self-help book, getting counselling on how to handle stress or relationships, or spending time in meditation, prayer, or nature.

Just like the focus on physical health is shifting—from just an “absence of disease” to striving for an overall “state of wellness”—the same is true of mental health. Rather than simply considering whether or not individuals may be experiencing a mental illness, counsellors now focus on how those who are struggling can best approach the everyday challenges of balancing tasks and coping productively with their thoughts and feelings along the way. So take your mental health pulse—assess how much you are able to enjoy life, be resilient with challenges, build on your potential, be emotionally flexible, and balance the different parts of your life. What can you choose to do today that will improve your mental health?


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Author: Michelle A. Bentley (MA, RP, RMFT)
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

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