“Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community,” - World Health Organization (WHO).
Two key elements to support good mental health are:
- Feeling Good – experiencing positive emotions like happiness, contentment and enjoyment. Including feelings like curiosity, engagement and safety.
- Functioning Well – how a person is able to function in the world, this includes positive relationships and social connections, as well as feeling in control of your life and having a sense of purpose.
Good mental health and wellbeing is just as important as good physical health. Like physical health, mental health can range across a spectrum from healthy to unwell; it can fluctuate on a daily basis and change over time.
We all have mental health. The term ‘mental health’ encompasses a broader spectrum of experiences than mental illness. We can have good, as well as poor, mental health, and also be somewhere in between – our mental health is interchangeable, mental health is a sliding scale.
‘Good’ mental health doesn’t mean that we never experience a negative emotion. It is perfectly normal to feel a whole range of emotions – from grief and sadness to excitement and happiness, and everything in between.
When we’re feeling mentally healthy, we’re able to cope with and express these fluctuations in our mood. We’re normally able to cope with the things that life throws at us, including any change and uncertainty that crop up.
Mental illness occurs when our emotions go beyond what we would normally expect people to cope with at either end of the spectrum. This includes particularly low emotions, such as depression, and heightened emotions, such as mania.
Mental illness can affect the way that we think, feel, act, behave, and interact with other people. It can alter the way that we experience the world, and consequently the way that we respond to it.
Having a mental illness doesn’t mean that we will never feel mentally well again. For many people, they will experience a period of mental illness, and then learn to manage it, or find that their illness goes into remission.
People with diagnosable mental health conditions will have different combinations of symptoms, all of which will affect their lives differently based on their personal circumstances. There can be a whole spectrum of experiences within a diagnosis. It doesn’t mean that one person’s struggle is more valid or more important than another person’s struggle.
All sorts of things can affect our mental health, and these things can also have an impact on how we experience different symptoms. Additionally, outside influences can impact how much we’re able to help ourselves.
All of the things that make up our lives can affect how we experience mental illness, how much our symptoms affect us, and how able we are to manage our condition.
Mental Health and Wellbeing (MHWB) in School
Our role in school is to ensure that children are able to manage times of change and stress, and that they are supported to reach their potential or access help when they need it. Children are taught when to seek help, what help is available, and the likely outcome of seeking support so that they have the confidence and knowledge for themselves or others. We also have a role to ensure that children learn about what they can do to maintain positive mental health, what affects their mental health and how they can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.