March 3, 2021

Mental Health or Mental Illness?

(content updated April 27, 2022)

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “mental health?”

Often, we aren’t actually thinking of aspects of mental health but instead aspects of mental illness. Mental health and mental illness seem to have become interchangeable phrases in our society, however, there are big differences between the two phrases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, mental illness refers to a mental health disorder or condition that affects your mood, thinking and behavior over two weeks or longer. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time.

But a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, eating and addictive disorders.

Mental illness and mental health should be thought of as two different terms with very different definitions.

Mental health can often be described as “mental fitness.” Think of physical fitness for your mind. Mental health gets a bad reputation, but it can also mean positive benefits such as the ability to focus, relieve stress and overall happiness.

Positive mental health takes practice and consistency (just like exercise) to stay in a positive state of mind. Engaging in physical activity, getting a good night’s sleep (download), meditating, journaling and calling a friend are all good ways to practice and improve mental health.

Stay tuned for more mental health discussions in future Wellness Wednesday posts, and click the link below to download a flyer for more information about mental health and mental illness.

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Better Health in 90 is a video series from Kinetiq Health that provides health tips in about 90 seconds or less from our expert clinical and wellness team.

Mental health. It’s more important than even before and top of mind for most employers. But do you really know what encompasses mental health? In this Better Health in 90 video, Sarah Michaels, RN sets the record straight about the differences between mental health and mental illness.

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Sarah Michaels

Authored By

Sarah Michaels, RN, CPBS

VP of Kinetiq Health
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