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Rural Health Information Hub

Defining Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as:

“…a state of well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in.”

Mental health conditions comprise a broad umbrella of disorders. These conditions can affect daily activities and relationships for individuals and families involved. Common mental health conditions include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, phobias)
  • Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
  • Psychotic disorders (schizophrenia)

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), mental health conditions are considered serious mental illnesses (SMI) when they cause “serious functional impairment that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”

Mental health conditions are affected by complex factors and are associated with the following experiences and conditions:

Long-term mental illness has also been associated with shorter lifespan and increased co-occurrence of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, epilepsy, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.