Mental Health

Vikki Vandiver and Nikki Hozack

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Mental Health


An essential starting point for understanding and describing mental health is to also understand mental illness. Essentially, what is mental health, and what is mental illness? From a public health perspective, mental illness is considered a public health concern due to the fact that people with serious mental illnesses often have serious medical problems, co-occurring alcohol and drug problems, and higher mortality rates than the general population. Conventional descriptions of mental illness refer to individuals who exhibit clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndromes or patterns and in whom these syndromes are associated with present distress (e.g., painful symptom) and disability (e.g., impairment in functioning) and result in increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom. Mental health, on the other hand, can be described as both a process and an outcome that includes features such as purpose in life, self-acceptance, autonomy, positive relations, social acceptance, social actualization, and self-esteem. Mental health is considered critical to overall health and cognitive and emotional well-being and includes an individual’s ability to enjoy and balance life as well as to achieve emotional and psychological resilience. Strategies for achieving mental health are seen in consumer empowerment and recovery models of care as well as the uptick in the application of evidence-based practices and family- and consumer-friendly policies. The boundary between mental health and mental illness is not rigid but fluid, subject to social, environmental, policy, and individual influences, and there is no one definition of mental health. Until recently the focus of mental health research and writing was on pathology and the reduction of symptoms rather than on finding paths to mental wellness and improving quality of life. While there are many published works discussing mental illness and pathology, fewer explore mental health as an interdisciplinary field of philosophy, practice, and policy that emphasizes wellness and consumer preference. However, with the growing emphasis on mental health care reform, the number is growing. Although it would be impossible to provide an exhaustive list of all published resources in mental health, this article provides a broad list of common and not so common resources for any reader who wants to familiarize himself or herself with the intersection of mental health and public health.

Article.  10894 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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