Research Paper Title
A proposed new definition of mental health.
The authors propose a new approach to the definition of mental health, different than the definition proposed by the World Health Organisation, which is established around issues of person’s well-being and productivity.
It is supposed to reflect the complexity of human life experience.
The definition of mental health proposed by the World Health Organization (WHO) is organised around a hedonic and eudaimonic perspective, in which a key role is assigned to person’s well-being and productivity. While regarding well-being as a desirable goal for many people, its inclusion in the definition of mental health raises concerns. According to Keyes, well-being includes emotional, psychological and social well-being, and involves positive feelings (e.g., happiness, satisfaction), positive attitudes towards own responsibilities and towards others, and positive functioning
(e.g., social integration, actualisation and coherence).
However, people in good mental health experience a wide range of emotions, such as sadness, anger or unhappiness; most adolescents are often unsatisfied, unhappy about present social organisation and may lack social coherence. Does this mean that they are not in good mental health? A person responsible for her/his family might feel desperate after being fired from his/her job, especially in a situation characterised by scarce occupational opportunities; should we question her/his mental health? Actually, raising the bar of mental health may create unrealistic expectations, encourage people
to mask most of their emotions while pretending constant happiness, and even favour their isolation when they feel sad, angry or worried.
Also the concept of positive functioning (“can work productively and fruitfully”), in line with the eudaimonic tradition, raises concerns, as it implies that a person at an age or in a physical or even political condition preventing her/him from working productively is not by definition in good mental health.
The definition of mental health is clearly influenced by the culture that defines it. However, as also advocated by Vaillant, an effort can be made to identify elements that have a universal importance for mental health, as for example, vitamins and the four basic food groups are universally given a key role in eating habits, in spite of cultural differences.
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Galderisi, S., Heinz, A., Kastrup, M., Beezhold, J. & Sartorius, N. (2020) A proposed new definition of mental health. Psychiatria Polska. 51(3), pp.407-411. doi: 10.12740/PP/74145. Epub 2017 Jun 18.