Mental Health Promotion: A Lifespan Approach

By Mima Cattan; Sylvia Tilford | Go to book overview

2 What is mental health?

Editors’ foreword

Glenn MacDonald

The question, ‘What is mental health?’ has been debated across disciplines, among politicians and by those who have experienced ‘mental ill health’. In order to understand mental health promotion, in what way it is effective and how we might apply it in our practice we need to understand first the different perspectives of mental health and mental well-being. This chapter considers the range of approaches to mental health, the distinctions and similarities between mental health, mental well-being and mental illness and the ongoing philosophical debate regarding mental health. The author does not attempt to provide a definitive answer to, ‘What is mental health?’ but offers a challenging and perhaps slightly controversial perspective on the debates. The chapter starts with a discussion about terminology and goes on to consider this in a cultural context. Theoretical concepts are explored next and the chapter concludes with a discussion about the measurement of mental health. The chapter provides a challenging starting point for Chapter 3 on mental health promotion.


Introduction

There is no succinct and universally agreed answer to this question. Some people feel that there should be a clear and unequivocal answer and have developed strategies for improving mental health based on this assumption. Others argue against what they see as a simplistic and reductionist1 view and claim that mental health is a complex and relative issue that cannot be easily defined or treated in the same objective fashion as, say, physical ailments and disorders.

The aim of this chapter is to help develop an understanding of mental health and to sort through some of the claims and arguments that have been made. In doing so, we need to remember that arguments to do with mental health and illness – what they are, how they are improved and how they are damaged – are not trivial, academic or abstract, but central to people's everyday lives.

An important starting point is to acknowledge the strength and depth of emotion involved. Many writers report the all-pervading effects on an individual's personal and social life when mental health falls short of what is needed to cope (for example,

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Mental Health Promotion: A Lifespan Approach
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Mental Health Promotion - A Lifespan Approach iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures, Tables and Boxes vi
  • List of Contributors viii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • List of Abbreviations xvi
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: What Is Mental Health? 8
  • 3: Mental Health Promotion 33
  • 4: Infancy and Childhood (0–5 Years and 6–12 Years) 64
  • 5: Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood (12–17 Years and 18–24 Years) 100
  • 6: Adulthood 137
  • 7: Older People 176
  • 8: Concluding Comments and the Future of Mental Health Promotion 214
  • Appendix 1 226
  • Appendix 2 228
  • Appendix 3 230
  • Glossary 232
  • Index 236
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