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Mental health

Conceptions of mental health have changed significantly over the past years. We now focus on mental well-being as a positive state that everyone can attain. WHO states that health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Mental health is not a binary state - we are not either mentally healthy or ill. Physical health is also not only the absence of disease, but it is the optimal level of fitness relative to capabilities. Most people fluctuate somewhere between experiencing full fitness and potential and experiencing ill health throughout their lifetime.

There is a range of factors that can influence mental health both positively and negatively (e.g. physical and social environment, relationships, health conditions).


Regardless of the status of someone’s mental health, mental health promotion for all can be helpful. Mental health promotion refers to the enhancement of capacities of  individuals, families, groups and communities to promote positive mental health, which is one of the desired outcomes of health promotion.2

No matter which state of mental health a person finds themself in, there are ways in which anyone can reach 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, through recognising, accessing and using appropriate forms of care and treatment.