Mental health

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Women are almost twice as likely to become depressed as men

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 (WHO, 2001d, p.1).[1]

According to the World Health Organisation, mental and behavioural disorders represented 11% of the total disease burden worldwide in 1990, and this is expected to increase to 15% by 2020. The most common mental disorder is depression, which was the fourth largest contributor to the disease burden in 1990 and is expected to be the second highest by 2020 after heart disease.[2]

Mental Health and Well-being

“The concept of well-being has traditionally been viewed from two differing perspectives. The long-standing “clinical tradition” operationalizes well-being through measures of depression, distress, anxiety, or substance abuse, whereas the “psychological tradition” operationalizes well-being in terms of one’s subjective evaluation of life satisfaction.”[3]

While there has been much discussion about the need for a holistic approach to well-being, there have been few attempts to develop a conceptual framework to measure well-being. Early psychologists such as Jung and Maslow stressed the importance of viewing the person as a “whole”  and argued that striving toward self-actualization, growth, and excellence is a universal human tendency and overarching life purpose.[4] A recent example of an attempt to measure well-being is the “Wheel of Wellness” model, developed by Myers et al, that looks at five life tasks including spirituality, work and leisure, friendship, love and self-direction.

Progress in Attitudes to Mental Health

Attitudes towards people suffering from mental disorders have changed enormously over the last few hundred years, although in some countries many are still subject to human rights violations. According to the World Health Organisation, the stigma on mental-ill health in some countries means that sufferers are stigmatized and ostracized from society, in some cases banished to the edges of village, tied up, beaten and left to go hungry. In some countries, patients in mental hospitals fare little better. Mentally ill people can also face discrimination in areas such as education, employment and housing. Some countries even prohibit people from voting, marrying or having children.[5]

Mental Health Indicators

Chapter 12 of the World Health Organisation’s “Promoting Mental Health” outlines some of the basic indicators and frameworks being developed to assess mental health. It includes a socio-ecological framework for assessing mental health, criteria for selecting indicators, macro-level indicators and individual indicators.

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The suicide rate is a very crude indicators of mental well-being in international comparison.


  3. Hattie, J.A.; Myers, J.E.; Sweeney, T.J. (2004). “A factor structure of wellness: Theory, assessment, analysis and practice”. Journal of Counseling and Development 82: 354–364.
  4. Hattie, J.A.; Myers, J.E.; Sweeney, T.J. (2004). “A factor structure of wellness: Theory, assessment, analysis and practice”. Journal of Counseling and Development 82: 354–364.


See also

Child Mental Health



World Health Organisation


Page created by —Sarahgregory 14:54, 26 May 2009 (UTC)