The question ‘what is mental health?’ has been the subject of much debate over many years. As yet there is no definition of ‘mental health’ that is universally agreed. In the context of improving mental health in Wales, Public Health Network Cymru is adopting the approach taken by the Welsh Government.
This starts with a holistic understanding of ‘health’, which has been defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as ‘...a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’(WHO, 1946).
From this, we can understand that mental health is
- an integral part of health
- more than the absence of mental illness
- intimately connected with physical health and behaviour. (WHO, 2005).
However, the term ‘mental health’ has long been used interchangeably with, or as a euphemism for, ‘mental illness’. It is important that this is challenged, so that ‘mental health and wellbeing’ is valued as a desirable quality in its own right, and as more than the absence of symptoms of mental illness. (Welsh Assembly Government, 2006)
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