The growing tendency to treat mental health and wellbeing as interchangeable ideas reflects the adoption of expansive definitions of mental health.
Keen not to present mental health as simply the absence of mental illness, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as “a state of wellbeing” in which people can successfully cope with stress, work effectively, contribute to their communities, and realise their potential.
The Australian organisation Everymind agrees, defining mental health as “a positive concept related to the social and emotional wellbeing of individuals and communities”.
The distinction between mental health and wellbeing may have become hazy, but the two concepts have very different connotations.
The WHO may align mental health with wellness, but mental health remains strongly tied to ideas of mental illness. The distinction between mental health and wellbeing is compelling and it has some important implications.