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Defining Mental Health

By Taslim Hassan


As a practitioner and counsellor, I often get a lot of my clients and even family and friends asking me more about mental health, so I thought it may help to write something about mental health in a nutshell. Throughout this article, I aim to strengthen our awareness around mental health and will be touching on “What is mental health?” I will also be sharing more articles in the near future around how we can improve our wellbeing and supporting our loved ones. Happy reading!

Definition of Mental Health

The World Health Organization defines mental health as the following:
"Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” to her or his community."

This is well defined but I thought it might help to break this down slowly so it can become clearer. So here’s my take on defining mental health..

So, what is the state of our wellbeing?

Well, it’s simply the way we feel about something. This can include feeling over the moon, joyful and happy when something good happens such as graduating, achieving targets, promotions, becoming a parent or even welcoming new additions in the form of family and friends. You can also feel the opposite, such as low moods, anxious and stuck due to bereavement, loss or change in circumstances. How we feel all depends on our personal experiences.

What does it mean by “realising own potential?”

This refers to recognising the outcome that’s bought about our positive feelings. During this phase, you can begin to recognise what makes you feel satisfied and content. It’s like piecing the jigsaw together, creating a beautiful and complete image and that would evoke a sense of achievement. Sometimes, we may not feel able to see our potential due to how we feel. It may be that we’re overwhelmed with so many changes that’s beyond human control, and that can make it more difficult to heal and re-grow our mindset. But what’s worth remembering is that things may change over time. There may be days you’re at one end of the spectrum and day’s you’re at the other and that’s ok. Even being in the middle is ok as it’s more about recognising and acknowledging how you feel.

Looking at the rest of the definition, it’s more about the promotion of healthy wellbeing and goals, such as coping with normal stresses, working productively and making contributions. Let’s look into this further.

What does it mean to experience normal stresses and working fruitfully and productively?

That’s a good question, as it’s very broad of a term to use. The way I see it is what we do in our everyday life, such as waking up, brushing our teeth and following routines. There’s a lot more to add to the list but I’m sure you’ve grasped what I mean. I suppose it’s more about trying to function healthily on the whole. As I mentioned earlier, you may have days you feel at one end of the spectrum and days you’re on the other. Sometimes you may feel you don’t have the motivation, drive or energy to do everyday tasks, but it’s ok to break it down into manageable chunks. That is also a way of working through your stresses and productivity. Even if you do nothing and give yourself permission to rest, that’s also a means to cope.

What does it mean about contributing to the community?

Usually when we think about contributions, it may lead to people thinking about voluntary actions such as charity, but it also means having a supportive network of people around you, who are able to listen to you and offer sound advice. Even a warm hug and lots of empathy can go a long way! Sometimes one may feel the need to have a break and interact with people on a small scale or even one may need time to process their feelings alone, but that’s still a contribution because it requires understanding other people’s needs.


I feel what we should take away from this is the following:
- Mental health is a spectrum
- Sometimes people can feel happy or sad, dependent on what they’re going through
- Mental health is a part and parcel of the human condition, it’s about realising your own potential
- It’s ok to feel satisfied being in the middle of the rating scale, you don’t have to be perfect
- Having supportive networks can help a great deal and holding space and understanding is just as important

Final words of wisdom and support…

I’d like to thank you all for taking the time to read this. I really hope it’s shed some light on mental health and strengthens our knowledge about the topic. If you or someone you know are struggling, you can contact Samaritans, CALM and Papyrus. I am a BACP registered Counsellor and available to see new clients. Please feel free to contact me and have a browse of my website on
Take care! See you next time with another article :)

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