Mental health is not the absence of mental illness. And mental illness is not the absence of mental health.
According to the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Similarly, I like to think of mental health as not merely the absence of mental illness, but a state of psychological and emotional wellbeing that allows us to cope effectively with the challenges of life, leverage our strengths, appreciate what is good, and tap into a deeper sense of who we are beyond the elements of our mind.
I also like to think of mental illness not being the absence of mental health. Although there are many instances where mental illness can make it very difficult to function in the world, there are also many instances where those with mental illnesses thrive. And we all have different expressions of mental illness; it’s just more prominent in certain people.
It may always be important to manage what is most painful and debilitating, but I believe it is equally important to remember there are many dimensions to who you are.