1 Defining and understanding mental health and illness
Like many subjects, mental health is complex. This is partly because the language used in discussions about mental health is diverse, can mean different things to different people, and can sometimes be misleading. For example, the term ‘mental health’ is usually used in discussions about just the opposite: ‘mental illness’! There are, however, good reasons for the confusion surrounding its language. One reason is that decisions about what constitutes ‘mental health’, ‘mental illness’, ‘mental disorder’ and so forth are difficult to make and so people often disagree about them. Another reason is that such decisions are also value-laden. For many people, being diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia or depression is a deeply stigmatising experience. In this section we explore some of the problems with defining mental health.