Mental health and mental illness. What’s the difference?

by | Sep 3, 2019 | Mental Health, Mental Illness | 0 comments

3 Sep 2019

Currently in Australia we have a mental health crisis. Mental health is “trending”.  Situational anxiety and depression are focused on massively by all the big mental health organisations, as more and more people are being diagnosed with situational depression and anxiety. We are encouraged to talk to our friends and families and look out for our friends. And yes, we should be doing this because connection is something that as humans we crave. However, Suicide rates are through the roof whilst we live in a time where mental health has such a massive focus and awareness.

Mental health can deteriorate quickly due to situations surrounding a person. Our mental health can be fragile if not looked after. Self-care is a must. Unfortunately, life can throw some epic curve balls. The mental health space spends millions and millions to help us stay aware of the people around us and their mental health especially in hard times. And the focus on situational anxiety and depression is huge and rightfully so as 1 in 5 Australians or roughly 4.8 million people will have some sort of short-term mental health issue in their lifetime. But is bad mental health a mental illness?

You probably all just said what’s the difference and it’s something we are all guilty of thinking. However mental health and mental illness although linked and can both be extremely hard to deal with are in fact different.

The diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders defines mental illness as “A syndrome characterized by clinically significant disturbance in an individuals cognition, emotional regulation, or behaviour that reflects dysfunction in the psychological, biological or developmental processes underlying mental function” basically we are talking about diagnosed disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia and other mental illness that is predominantly long term and will never go away.

These disorders are debilitating even when well managed. Even management can be its own burden, as it involves countless appointments with 3 or 4 different medical / mental health professionals, as well as being chained to the chemist. Mental illnessin Australia affects roughly 8% of the population in total with affective disorders like OCD, PTSD and bipolar 1 affecting 1% bipolar 2 affecting 5% (1,438,138.38 people) and schizophrenia effecting 2% (479,379.46 people). The numbers being so low in comparison to mental health instances means these more severe types of mental illness are left behind when it comes to funding and research.

Mental health on the other hand touches that 1 in five or 4.8 million we spoke about earlier, it is our everyday mental well-being, our full range of emotions, thoughts and feelings from good all the way down to bad. Mental health refers to our happiness, fulfillments, how we feel about ourselves and how we manage problems. It also refers to our relationships / social connections and our interaction with what is happening in the world around us. Basically, mental health is something that every person on earth deals with to some degree. Which is why there are so many organisations promoting awareness for mental health. We have these organisations promoting the awareness because it can end in tragedy as we well know from current suicide rates

We should all take steps to look after ourselves. If you are mentally ill like me, we need to do all the things that help us to live well with our illness. As much as all the appointments start to feel too much, they are what keeps us out of hospital and well managed. Every psychologist appointment, psychiatrist appointment, GP appointment, the daily medications, plus the lifestyle adjustments we do to keep us well, it may but hard, but it is worth it.

And for those of us who are mentally well, going to a mental health professional to have a general mental wellbeing check-up is just as important. At these check-ups you will be given tools to help manage the stress and day to day issues life throws at us. Kind of like taking our probiotics or multi vitamins.  No one questions someone supplementing their diet so why not supplement our thinking and emotional minds with psychological tools. Having these tools to help you think differently or approach problems in a way you’ve never thought about before can have positive outcomes for your wellbeing, your family and your productivity.

Looking after ourselves, practicing self-care and getting mental health check ups once or twice a year doesn’t make you mentally ill it makes you proactive, so you can live a happy healthy and mentally well life.

Written by:

Ben Russoniello | ©benrussoniello 2019 | ©thegreyspaceprganisationlimited2019


American psychiatric association, 8 July 2018, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental Disorders, 5th Edition | http:/


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