Mental health is a phrase that gets tossed about a lot — this is true especially during the few decades prior to this one — but its full meaning often gets shorted. Casual mental health discussions usually focus on significant disorders: schizophrenic condition, bipolar condition, sociopathic tendencies, even Alzheimer’s disease. But what gets left out in these sorts of discussions is how mental health affects each of our lives, without exception.
Thinking on mental health typically focuses on disorder. Someone who has a condition is psychologically unwell; being free of a condition makes one mentally well. This reasoning is problematic in different ways. Firstly, there are many people who do, in fact, have mental health disease go without being diagnosed. The world is full of people with undiagnosed mental conditions.
The second problem is that mental health is not simply an absence of a diagnosed condition, or presenting symptoms. In other words, mental health isn’t simply about lacking; mental health is equally about having.
Being mentally healthy means a number of things: coping successfully with the setbacks life invariably presents; healthy relationships with loved ones; functional relations regular acquaintances — coworkers, for example; and integrating successfully into general society. These traits can certainly be absent in people who don’t show symptoms or indications of mental illness.
Does lacking the ability to cope with life’s challenges and social interaction imply mental illness? Not in most cases, no. However, one might be able to make the argument that dysfunction does rise to the level of mental illness, particularly where people act out, or turn to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping. Addicts or social misfits aren’t typically labeled as mentally ill. Altering this reality would encourage scores to seek out mental health treatment.
Taking this approach — defining typical dysfunction as indications of mental or psychological illness, and subsequently encouraging treatment for such — would surely come up against opposition. Arguments in opposition might include the thinking that labeling and treating basic dysfunctions would be a case of overkill, would intrude on people’s lives, and would be tantamount to medicating scores of people. But does this really constitute a legitimate counter argument? There’s no absolute law that requires mental health to be an intrusive experience, or some type of pharmaceutical experience. No one is suggesting that pharmaceuticals be passed about in even greater quantity than they are now.
What mental health should — should — encourage is coping technique, not the alteration of one’s reality. Going about it this way — keep the reality, alter the inappropriate coping mechanisms — needn’t involve any sort of medication cycle whatsoever. Mental health treatment history is extensive, and only fairly recently has it involved treatment with medication. Treating psychological function does not require the usage of pharmaceuticals, and that reality needs to be emphasized.