A Healthy Mind


A lot of discussion exists around mental illness and disorder but while I was reading the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry yesterday, I came across an interesting passage about good mental health.

Good mental health is more than simply the absence of mental disorder, it requires:

  • A sense of self sufficiency, self esteem, and self worth
  • The ability to put one’s trust in others
  • The ability to give and receive friendship, affection and love.
  • The ability to form enduring emotional attachments.
  • The ability to experience deep emotions.
  • The ability to forgive others and oneself.
  • The ability to examine oneself and consider change.
  • The ability to learn from experience.
  • The ability to tolerate uncertainty and take risks.
  • The ability to engage in reverie and fantasy’

I don’t think I had ever seen ‘criteria’ for good mental health before as a lot of the literature seems to focus on the negative so it made for an interesting read.

The list makes it much clearer how tentative the line is between the health and the illness.  I’m not sure many people could tick all those boxes with a clear conscience on a daily basis.

The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive discusses very eloquently, the relation between mental illness and self and by looking at the list it seems that a lot of factors that are very much fundamental to who we are as individuals are included. Surely some people are more forgiving than others, more thoughtful and reflective than others, but does that make them less sound of mind.

I thought it was an interesting guide, in any case!

(and the book seems to be available free in electronic form on Google Books – the above text is taken from page 7 if anyone cares to investigate!).

5 thoughts on “A Healthy Mind

  1. I am a resident in Psychiatry that seeks to bring about understanding of mental illnesses and promote mental health.As such I hope that stigma attached to mental illnesses will be reduced and this will bring about better mental health seeking behaviours.
    However,your post highlighted the fact that one does need to lose touch with reality(psychotic)to see a psychiarist or at least a psychologist.We really must understand the nature of mental health to appreciate the enourmity of the issues at hand.

  2. Yes, I think sometimes the focus on mental illness allows us to lose sight of mental healthiness so to speak (and I’ve read your blog – it’s very interesting and I find, particularly, the cross cultural perspective very interesting!). I have to admit I don’t know anything about psychiatric services even the other end of the UK, let alone further afield, so reading about your experiences in Africa is fascinating!

  3. Thanks for posting this. I haven’t read it before. You know I think it’s a very important issue for the whole of health care – almost our entire focus is on disease, and our concept of disease is still disturbingly old-fashioned. We kind of see disease as an entity to be fought, expelled or suppressed. Taking a view from health instead of disease profoundly changes how we think and what we are trying to do.
    In mental health, the work of Seligman in developing Positive Psychology explores this very, very explicitly. If you read any of his books you’ll see it’s exactly that dilemma of focus on disease instead of health that led him to explore “happiness” and “strengths”. Maybe you’re familiar with his work already?
    I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking around this issue and I think health includes these three characteristics – the ability of the organism to adapt (to cope with change), the ability of the organism to grow and develop (to create), and the ability to engage (to connect and exchange with others and the environment). See more here if you’re interested – http://heroesnotzombies.wordpress.com/adapt-create-engage/
    I look from time to time in current editions of medical textbooks and I’ve never yet for an entry for “health” or “healing”. Isn’t that bizarre?

  4. That’s really interesting stuff, Bob and I’m somewhat ashamed to say I don’t know much (actually anything) about Seligman but am off to investigate imminently as I think it sounds like something I would find very useful and interesting.

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