What Is Mental Health?
When something is sound, it functions well. Just as a sound car is efficient and reliable, so is a sound mind; but “sound” describes the mind. What then is mind?
We all want good mental health, but “good” describes mental health. What is mental health without an adjective?
3 Aspects of Mental Health
- Mental health is the psychological and emotional aspect of human life. It is your capacity for thinking and feeling, your ability to engage effectively with others, and manage the business of everyday life.
- Mental health is an area of medicine having to do with our ability to function effectively in the world, and also the overall well-being of our mental and emotional self.
- Mental health refers to the condition of a person’s psychological and emotional self. The medical area of mental health often judges the condition of someone’s mental health.
What Is Normal Mental Health?
Mental health is difficult to pin-down because there is no concise range of normality. We know the normal temperature of the human body because it is the only temperature at which the body thrives. Yet, humans can thrive within a wide range of mental and emotional competence.
The medical field describes normal in relation to a person’s ability to function well-enough in the world. Most people tend to agree with this definition; if someone plays well with others and brushes their teeth regularly, they seem “normal” to us. At what point do people become abnormal?
When studying psychotherapy, students are told that there is no mental illness (abnormality) unless a person cannot function or care for themselves in some part(s) of their life. This allows a broad range of normality; you don't have to be perfect as long as the trash gets taken out and bills are paid. Even so, being normal (or abnormal) also depends on your perspective.
There are people diagnosed with schizophrenia that refuse medication because they like the way their mind works. They can’t hold a job, have difficulty connecting with others, and do not process information logically but they enjoy their mind’s chaotic patterns. Although the medical world considers them ill, they have defined what is normal for them.
It's About How You Get from Here to There
It all becomes less confusing when you think of mental health as a process instead of a state of being. Mental health is not only where you are or your destination, but is how you get there.
If you drive too fast, you may get speeding tickets or have an accident. If you text and drive you might run a stop sign, rear end the car in front of you, or change lanes into the path of another car. If you have several accidents, get many tickets, and continue to drive the same way, people will say, “You’re nuts. You really need change how you drive.”
Because of the recklessness (how you drive), others think you are an unhealthy driver; someone who drives outside the acceptable norm.
However, if you “drive” your relationships, employment, education, and leisure with only the occasional accident, you are cruising life with good-enough mental health. If you don't believe you are cruising well-enough, consider seeing a mental health professional to improve your driving skills.