What is Mental Health?

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Mental health is an expression we use almost every day, especially in our workplaces. However, it might surprise you that the term ‘mental health” is frequently misunderstood.

Often, it’s just so damn confusing working out what people are talking about when they discuss mental health issues in the workplace. We use so many terms in organisations these days to discuss issues around mental health and wellbeing. On many occasions, I hear many different terms used but often in the wrong context and with obvious poor understanding as to what the terms mean. Just consider, there’s mental health, positive mental health, wellbeing, poor mental health, mental illness, mental disorder, flourishing, thriving, languishing. You can see why it’s easy for people to get confused.

Mental Health and Mental Illness are often terms that are used interchangeably.

So, what is Mental Health?

Mental Health is defined by the World Health Organisation as “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”.

Unfortunately, Mental Health is often associated and used as a substitute for asking about mental health conditions like anxiety and depression etc. But actually, rather than asking the question “what’s the problem?’, it is really about asking the question “what’s going well?” So, in fact Mental Health is about wellness rather than illness.

Mental Health and Mental Illness are not the same thing; but they are also not mutually exclusive.

A fundamental difference between mental health and mental illness is that everyone has some level of mental health all of the time, just like physical health, whereas it is possible to be without mental illness.

Take a look at Keyes Mental Health Continuum. It helps make a lot more sense of all the relative terms.

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Poor mental health and mental illness has a significant impact within not only society, but within organisations. Just consider some of the statistics.

•         In 2014 – The Australian Psychological Society review indicated 44% of Australians identified work as a source of stress.

•         SafeWork SA has identified that Mental Health Claims are the most expensive WorkCover claims.

•         At any given time, 1 out of every 5 employees is likely to be experiencing poor mental health or mental illness.

•         Poor Mental Health costs Australian businesses 10 Billion dollars per year in lost productivity (4.7 billion due to absenteeism and 6.1 billion due to presenteeism)

The benefits of Mental Health and staying well

Research shows that high levels of mental health are associated with:

·        increased learning

·        increased creativity

·        increased productivity

·        more pro-social behaviour and positive social relationships

·        improved physical health and life expectancy.

But it’s important to remember that mental health is complex. The fact that someone is not experiencing a mental health condition doesn’t necessarily mean their mental health is flourishing. Likewise, it’s possible to be diagnosed with a mental health condition while feeling well in many aspects of life. 

Mental health is ultimately about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships - and not merely the absence of a mental health condition.

Try these 3 steps you could do to enhance your mental health starting right now.

1)Manage your stress proactively.

Consider what is causing you any unease at present. First recognise what you can and can’t control. Then consider one active step you could take to move even 1% forward on this issue. You are always in control of something, even if it is only your personal reaction.

2) Enhance your relationships

Who could you spend more time with today to enhance your relationship with that important person. Could you just sit and talk over a coffee, ask more questions about their day at the dinner table, or just make that phone call you’ve been putting off.

3) Be mindful

Consider what you are grateful for. What is currently going well in your life, even if it’s a small thing. How could you increase WWW (what’s working well.

If you would like to know more about enhancing your mental health you can contact me at michelle@bakjacconsulting.com to find out more.

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Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Psychologist, Organisational Consultant, Leadership and Wellness Coach and Speaker / Facilitator. As Director of Bakjac Consulting, she is a Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a member of Mental Toughness Partners and an MTQ48 accredited Mental Toughness Practitioner.  Michelle assists individuals and organisations to develop their Mental Health and Mental Toughness to improve performance, leadership, behaviour and wellbeing.  You can find her at www.bakjacconsulting.com or michelle@bakjacconsulting.com