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Mental health vs. mental illness: What’s the difference?

by Kelly Menke, Concordia Plans Health and Wellness Educator
MH-and-Mental-Illness-whats the difference

Upcoming Health topics

  •  2nd Quarter Focus: Stress Management 
  • June – Men’s Health Month 


What is mental health? 

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
– Psalm 34:18 

More than just a “buzz” word, mental health refers to the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. We all have mental health. It is one of our greatest assets: helping us focus on work, overcome obstacles, get along with others and influence our ability to get well and stay well. Mental Health America points out that our mental health changes daily because many things, including our physical health, have an impact. 

So it’s important you understand the difference between mental health and mental illness. Mental illness involves a negative change in mental health that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. Another indicator is the impact it has on day-to-day living. 

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, poor mental health and mental illness are not the same things. A person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Likewise, a person diagnosed with a mental illness can experience periods of physical, mental, and social well-being. 

A good way to compare these two is to look at our physical health. Healthy eating habits, physical activity and sleep are all components of physical well-being. However, even when we are focusing on these components and making good healthy choices, we can experience moments where we sneak an extra sweet treat or miss a walk or aren’t sleeping well. It’s more about the big picture and prolonged effects of these moments occurring on a consistent basis. 

Vitality offers three mental well-being reviews to support assessing our mental health, which can provide initial insight into where we are in comparison to our optimal state. Head over to Vitality to get started. You’ll be taking an important first step in improving your personal mental health awareness AND you’ll earn Vitality Points – 225 possible points available.