There is a difference between mental health, and mental illness.
Our bodies can be in poor health without an actual illness or pathogen acting up on us. Poor eating, stress, lack of sleep, overwork, exhaustion, rough environmental conditions, all of these can sap us of our vitality and wellbeing, leaving us weakened.
There’s nothing “wrong” to treat. We’re just weakened.
So too it is with our mental (to which I am encompassing whole wide realm of mental/emotional/’spiritual’) health. It is very possible to be in a weakened mental health state without a physical/brain impingement acting up on us. Stress, environment, lack of sleep, social atmospheres, interactions, exposure, messaging, stories, all of these can sap us of our mental vitality and wellbeing, leaving us weakened.
It is, perhaps, an apt description for one of the ways Buddhism describes the term Dukkha, or dis-ease.
And when we are weakened, we are, in all manners of ways, not going to perform our best. Our thoughts, feelings, judgments, decisions, and actions are all going to be impaired. We can act out in ways we truly don’t want to, be rash, get into arguments, make logic errors, buy the wrong things, say terrible things, make poor choices, overreact, get into accidents, be violent, all manners of ways and actions that are far from the noble truths of our authentic desires.
It is vitally important to know this difference between mental illness and mental health. Because when we focus only on the former, and get into binary “have/don’t have” mental illness thinking, we can greatly miss that which affects us and millions like us. We can take what’s so and think it is the norm. We can dismiss our own troubles and unwellness, rendering ourselves susceptible to the fallout of the unwellness while blinding us to the steps we can take to lead ourselves back to health.
Most importantly, without holding this difference out in front of us we can miss all the influences that are making us all unwell, and so miss having the conversations and taking the actions necessary to lead our collective selves back towards wellness and even strength.
And within a community, that strength is what we want. When those in our community are well, we are well. It is a foundation that supports individual lives, with greater freedom, peace, and peace of mind.