• Carolyn

Mental Health vs Mental Illness

According to Magellan Health Insights, mental health refers to our emotional and psychological state, our social well–being and how we feel about ourselves and interact with others. Mental health is not the same as mental illness, although poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illnesses.

Mental illness refers to a wide range of disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior. Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social standing, religion or race/ethnicity. People with mental illness often experience distress and problems functioning at work, home and in social situations. Mental illness is not something the person can “overcome with willpower,” and can be caused by biological factors such as genes or brain chemistry, trauma and abuse, and family history of mental illness.

It is important to understand the difference between the two. Mental health is something we all have to be concerned with regardless of our age, our gender, our race, our sexual preference, or our nationality. Mental health is no different than our physical health. We need to take care of our mental health with healthy thoughts, attitudes, and mental exercise like mediation, just like we feed our bodies with healthy foods and exercise. Mental health is key to our overall success in life. Strong mental health allows for us to handle stressful situations, interact with loved ones in a healthy way, and see ourselves in the best light possible.

For those of us who are caring for a loved one who suffers from mental illness, our mental health is of the upmost importance. We cannot begin to care for another without first taking care of ourselves. We cannot begin to understand the power of mental illness if we ourselves don't come from a place of strong mental health. Coming from a place of strong mental health allows caregivers to provide the care that is needed for their loved ones without being negatively impacted and pulled down. Good mental health is like being a life guard. If you know how to swim and you have the right tools needed to help someone who is drowning, both of you will make it.

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