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Glossary of Terms

Mental health

General public definition

  • Mental refers to thoughts, feelings, emotions, and related brain functioning.
  • Mental health exists on a continuum from poor to good. In good mental health, a person:
    • understands themselves and their abilities
    • copes well with normal stress
    • experiences good feelings from their interactions and relationships with others
    • is able to work or function well in their usual activities, and
    • contributes to their family and/or community.
  • You can be diagnosed with a mental disorder but still cope well and have good mental health. On the other hand, you can have poor mental health without having a diagnosis of a mental disorder.
  • Mental health is influenced by a variety of personal and social factors and stresses.

Academic definition

  • Mental refers to thoughts (thought content), feelings (emotions), and related brain functioning.
  • Mental health exists on a continuum from poor to good, with good mental health being a state of psychological well-being. Good mental health generally enables people to function in their lives and usual activities, realize their potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, and contribute to their families and/or community.
  • Mental disorder lies on a different continuum, on a scale from mild to severe.43 A person can have good mental health even if they have a mental illness or a mental disorder. More commonly, a person can have poor mental health but still not meet the diagnostic criteria for any specific mental disorder described in the DSM-5-TR or ICD-11.
  • Mental health is influenced by a wide variety of personal, social, and economic determinants.

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