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Mental Health

Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. World Health Organisation (WHO 2007)

What is mental health?

Mental health is an integrated part of our overall health. Good mental health is as important as good physical health. Mental health is the balance between all aspects of our life; social, physical, emotional and spiritual. It is about the way a person thinks, feels and behaves. It impacts how we cope with stress, how we relate to others, how we make decisions in our lives and how we manage our surroundings. The term ‘mental health'' can also be used to describe the absence of ‘mental illness''.

What is mental illness?

Mental illness is a term that includes a wide range of mental and emotional conditions often referred to as Mental Disorders. Mental health problems can range from worries we all have with everyday life to more serious longer term illness.

With the help of professional support and treatment, people experiencing mental health difficulties can recover, or learn to live with the illness.

What are the statistics?

1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives (WHO, 2001). More recent research, however is demonstrating that this statistic may actually be even higher. One such study found that about half i.e. 1 in 2 (46.4%) of Americans will meet the criteria for a DSM-IV disorder sometime in their life (Kessler, Berglund et al, 2005). Another international study found that 1 in 4 people (26.2%) suffer from a mental illness in the course of one year (Kessler, Chiu et al, 2005).

What are the effects of stigma?

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, it is recognized that there remains a stigma and negative attitude attached to mental illness worldwide. Usually this is the result of fear associated with mental illness and lack of knowledge and information.

Acknowledging the statistics, means acknowledging the reality that at some point in our lives, a member of our family, some friend, or even we can go through a period of mental illness. In view of this, it does not make sense to ignore this reality or to discriminate between persons who are in good health and persons who are ill – whether physically or mentally. Doing so will only prevent persons from seeking help. Stigma needs to be eradicated. It is essential that persons suffering from mental illness, their relatives and carers look up information about mental health, in order to become well informed and to access professional services as soon as possible.

What is “Early Intervention”?

Early intervention is a clinical approach that forms part of a new prevention paradigm in mental health services. This approach focuses on the early detection and treatment of symptoms of mental illness. The earlier a person seeks professional support the earlier that person can recover. This is particularly important when the person suffers from psychosis. Untreated psychosis can lead to long term mental health disability. On the other hand the early provision of optimal treatments in the initial years (the first 3 to 5 years) is sought to prevent relapses and to reduce the long term impact of the condition on the person. For this reason as soon as the person or his/her relatives notice any emerging symptoms of mental illness, it is important to seek professional help immediately.

How can I get support?

Nobody knows you better than yourself! Next in line are surely your relatives and friends.

Talking to someone – whether a family member, a friend, a doctor or a mental health professional about worries or concerns regarding mental health will help prevent mental illness. Early intervention is critically important when speaking about illness – whether physical or mental. In order to seek professional support you may begin by first speaking to your family doctor. The doctor will then refer you to the appropriate services. You may also refer to the inserted

Further information about mental health


For further information about mental health and the different types of mental illnesses you may refer to the set of 8 leaflets, published by our Services.