What is Mental Health?

A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that with the right help and guidance you can live a fulfilled life.

Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan.


The notion of recovery involves a variety of perspectives:

Key Concepts of recovery

Mental health recovery is stated as “a journey of healing and transformation enabling a person with a mental health problem to live a meaningful life in a community of his or her choice while striving to achieve his or her potential.”

The 10 fundamental components of mental health recovery include but not limited to the following principles:

  • Self-Direction. Individuals determine their own path of recovery with autonomy, independence, and control of their resources.
  • Individualized and Person-Centered. There are multiple pathways to recovery based on an individual’s unique strengths as well as his or her needs, preferences, experiences, and cultural background.
  • Empowerment. Consumers have the authority to participate in all decisions that will affect their lives, and they are educated and supported in this process.
  • Holistic. Recovery encompasses an individual’s whole life, including mind, body, spirit, and community. Recovery embraces all aspects of life, including housing, social networks, employment, education, mental health and health care treatment, and family supports.
  • Non-Linear. Recovery is not a step-by step process but one based on continual growth, occasional setbacks, and learning from experience.
  • Strengths-Based. Recovery focuses on valuing and building on the multiple capacities, resiliencies, talents, coping abilities, and inherent worth of individuals. The process of recovery moves forward through interaction with others in supportive, trust-based relationships.
  • Peer Support. Mutual support plays an invaluable role in recovery. Consumers encourage and engage others in recovery and provide each other with a sense of belonging.
  • Respect. Eliminating discrimination and stigma are crucial in achieving recovery. Self-acceptance and regaining belief in oneself are particularly vital.
  • Responsibility. Consumers have a personal responsibility for their own self-care and journeys of recovery. Consumers identify coping strategies and healing processes to promote their own wellness.
  • Hope. Hope is the catalyst of the recovery process and provides the essential and motivating message of a positive future. Peers, families, friends, providers, and others can help foster hope.