Mental wellness is a topic that seems to be more relevant than ever in today's fast-paced and stressful school and work environment. However, defining mental wellness can get complicated. It is often used interchangeably with mental health, which is not necessarily accurate.
This definition is a clear step away from the typical and misguiding concept of mental health as simply the absence of mental illness (Galderisi, 2015). However, WHO’s current definition highlights positive and fully-functioning characteristics as contributors to “mental health,” which may not be fully representative of the reality of – and nuances within – understanding mental health.
What may not come as a surprise is that highs, lows, anger, sadness, happiness, and emotional versatility is inherently human and normal, and each person experiences various levels of personal satisfaction day-to-day. This being said, how can anyone truly say that someone is “mentally healthy?”
The new definition aims to bring “universal values” to the forefront. These values include: “respect and care for oneself and other living beings, recognition of connectedness between people, respect for the environment, and respect for one's own and others' freedom” (Galderisi, 2015). Also accounted for is the reality that mental health can encompass the full range of human emotions with regard for negative and more difficult emotions and subsequent coping, as discussed prior.
Mental health does not fit into a box - or even a multitude of boxes. In truth, mental wellness can be a concept that is even harder to pin down. This stems from a multitude of influential factors like gender, socioeconomic status, education, family, culture, history, ethnicity, etc. An intersectional approach to the subject with encouragement and support is crucial in improving mental health.
Mental wellness, as opposed to mental health, is relatively new in terms of medical and psychological studies, research, and teachings. Despite the knowledge gaps that exist behind this terminology, mental wellness has become an increasingly important and relevant factor in overall health and well-being, especially among educational institutions.
In fact, student programming in higher education has been one of the leading faculties in advocating for and implementing mental wellness best practices. Researchers are looking into the value of on-campus mental wellness resources more and more, finding that students who do not suffer from mental illness are less likely to drop out, abuse alcohol and other substances, and engage in other risky or life-threatening behaviors (Eisenberg, Golberstein, Hunt, 2009), substantiating campus administrative efforts to keep students healthy.
Perhaps mental wellness is not easily defined, but it can surely be put into action. Here are some tips from Consumer Health Digest to start practicing mental wellness today:
Those around us may also be struggling with their mental health, whether you can see it outwardly or not. You have the power to help and positively influence the well-being of others. You can be their lifeline. Here are some ways you can encourage others to prioritize mental wellness:
For more resources on mental wellness, mental health, and mental illness, visit www.mentalhealth.gov.