One would think that a definition is definitive, but really it isn’t. Merriam Webster has a definition for happiness, but everyone seems to have a different idea of what happy means. Similarly, there is a seemingly universal definition for mental health.
Merriam Webster defines mental health as: the condition of being sound mentally and emotionally that is characterized by the absence of mental illness and by adequate adjustment especially as reflected in feeling comfortable about oneself, positive feelings about others, and the ability to meet the demands of daily life.
There is one thing specifically that really bothers me about this definition and that is the fact that mental health is “characterized by the absence of mental illness.” This isolates all those people out there who are struggling with their mental health, but don’t feel they can get help just because they don’t have a mental illness. The definition itself implies that if someone is not diagnosed with a mental illness, they are perfectly fine. Wrong.
Time for my definition. I don’t have one. Mental health in itself is a definition: mental meaning emotional and health meaning how you feel. Put simply, mental health is simply how you feel about yourself and nothing else. There is no need to label mental health as anything else because doing so scares and isolates so many different people. If we as a society talk about mental health not as anxiety or depression but rather as simply how we are feeling, we could actually help people before they reach the state of serious mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. I urge you to stop thinking of mental health as an illness but rather how you look at physical health; you don’t immediately think you have a disease when you get a cold. Instead you go to a doctor who helps you before it progresses into something more serious. So, we should treat mental health the same way.
I just want to remind that whoever is reading this, you are not alone; there is always someone who will listen or talk and who can help you. Never forget that.
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