Positive mental health and wellbeing

Mental health is what we strive for and is more than the absence of mental illness. Optimal mental health and wellbeing requires an approach that addresses the whole person. Mental ill-health is a broad term that includes mental illness and mental health problems.Positive Mental health and wellbeing highlight image

A mental illness is a disorder diagnosed by a medical professional that significantly interferes with a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. Examples include depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders which can all occur with varying degrees of severity. A mental health problem can reduce a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities, but not to the extent that it meets the criteria for a mental illness diagnosis.

How big is the problem?

Mental illness is a substantial burden for individuals and communities. Over 45 per cent of Australians adults will experience a mental health-related condition at some point in their life. Serious mental illness affects about three per cent of Tasmanians.

Mental illness is one of the top three leading causes of disease and injury in Australia.  It is the leading cause of non-fatal disease. People are affected at important developmental stages, such as late adolescence and early adulthood, and in the most productive years of life.

What are the barriers to positive mental health and wellbeing

Evidence shows that mental ill-health or psychological distress are associated with:

  • racial discrimination
  • homelessness
  • low levels of education, low-status occupations and low incomes
  • unemployment
  • social disadvantage
  • homophobia
  • gender.

What can we do?

Mental health can be built and maintained through a combination of protective actors such as positive relationships and connection to community, cultural identity, physical activity, creative expression, sense of purpose, economic security, availability of opportunities and others.

Protective factors enhance and protect mental health and reduce the likelihood that mental ill-health will occur.

Protective factors can operate at individual, family and community levels as well as broader social, cultural, institutional levels. Addressing systems and processes that facilitation social exclusion, invisibility, stigma and discrimination can help reduce exposure to risk factors and support mental health and wellbeing.

Key components of recovery approaches are:

  • wellbeing
  • quality of life
  • a sense of control over one's health and
  • the ability to bounce back from adversity.

These are the focus of mental health service delivery and mental health promotion.

An emerging area in increasing mental health is the practice of incorporating health promotion with the arts (music, dance, theatre, writing, and drawing or painting).

We can all do something to promote mental health including building healthy public policy, creating supportive environments, strengthening communities to act, developing personal skills and reorienting services.

Further links and guidance

Rethink 2020. A state plan for mental health in Tasmania 2020-2025

Fifth National Mental health and Suicide Prevention Plan

Mental Health Council of Tasmania – Safely Talking Tookit

Everymind Australia - Conversations Matter

Be You (mental health promotion in schools)