What is mental health?
Understanding mental health

What is mental health?

A brief introduction to mental health

White Swan Foundation

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “A state of wellbeing in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Elaborating on this definition—it refers to the state of a person’s mind; this includes both their emotions and thoughts. They play a role by influencing how we behave in our daily life and in the social spaces we occupy.

The term thoughts refers to our cognitive functioning which includes different mental abilities— learning a new concept, exercising powers of reasoning, remembering or retaining information, problem-solving and decision-making skills as well as being able to pay attention. 

Mental health exists on a spectrum. Just as with physical health we can be in good mental health, or poor mental health; neither of these states are static. Where we are on the spectrum at any given point in time depends on different factors that can impact our thoughts and emotions, and as a result, our behaviors. Checking in on your mental health To know where you place on this spectrum at any point, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • How well am I able to cope with the stresses of life?

  • How well am I able to carry out my daily functions?

  • How well am I able to engage with others?

  • Where am I between surviving and thriving?

While considering these questions, remember that they are subjective in nature. When you are assessing yourself through these questions, remember that how well or how poorly you are able to do something must be determined in comparison to your usual levels of functioning. 

Click here to get an introduction to mental illness and learn about the different types of mental illness

White Swan Foundation
www.whiteswanfoundation.org