Analysis of Mental Health and Mental Illness

It is very difficult to give mental health an exact and precise definition. Often, people associate mental health with happiness, contentment, satisfaction, achievement, optimism, or hope (Videbeck, 2004). These associations, however, are problematic in the sense that these abstract concepts manifest differently with each individual. Generally, the behavior is the determinant of a person’s mental well-being, but since behavior is greatly influenced by culture, tradition, and personal beliefs, it is very difficult to determine what acceptable behavior is and what is not. As such, there is not one universal definition of mental health.
The World Health Organization defines health as "the state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being" (WHO, 2007). Health, therefore, not only covers a person’s physiologic needs, but also includes a person’s psychologic, emotional, social, and mental needs. It is the balance between all aspects of our lives.
According to Mosby’s Pocket Dictionary, mental health defined is "a relative state of mind in which a person is able to cope with and adjust to the recurrent stresses of everyday living in an acceptable way" (Allen et. al. 2002, pp. 784-85). Videbeck, on the other hand, defined mental health as "a state of emotional, psychological, and social wellness evidenced by satisfying interpersonal relationships, effective behavior and coping, positive self-concept, and emotional stability" (2004, p.3).
In these definitions, the concepts of "acceptable behavior", "emotional stability", and "effective behavior and coping" are encountered. Are these terms measurable’ If so, in what way’ These concepts vary in manifestations in a person’s everyday living, as there are different cultures, traditions and practices, beliefs and religions, and environment and familial background and upbringing. Stuart and Laria (2005) claim that it is dangerous to equate personal or mental abnormalities with mere deviant or non-conformist behavior and that mental health and illness, and conformity and deviation must be regarded as separate concepts.
Mental illness was hence defined by the American Psychiatric Association as "a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome or pattern that occurs in an individual and that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom" (2000, quoted in Videbeck 2004, p.3).
The Draft Mental Health Bill of 2004 provides a shorter yet vague definition of mental disorder: "an impairment of, or a disturbance in, the functioning of the mind or brain resulting from any disability or disorder of the mind or brain" (Definition of Mental Disorder and Exclusions, 2008).
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