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Caring for adults
Caring for adults

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1 Terminology and mental health

In the introduction to this section of the course you will have noticed that a number of different terms are used to describe the experience of people who for one reason or another have been associated with mental health issues. These issues are described as mental health problems, mental ill-health and mental illness. Other ways to describe mental health problems include mental disorder, mental disability, mental distress and mental incapacity. Many people understand mental health problems because of specific conditions. Later in this section you will learn about some of the types of mental health problems, including:

  • depression
  • schizophrenia
  • bipolar disorder
  • dementia.

In this course we are using the term ‘mental health problems’ because it suggests that the condition brings with it wider issues than an individual’s mental health status implies. Note the term ‘mental health problems’ is used in the plural. The person can often have more than one problem associated with their condition.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Consider what you think is meant by good mental health and how it might differ to having mental health problems. Jot down your thoughts in the box below.

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The difference between having good mental health and experiencing mental health problems is a contested area. Good mental health is not just the absence of mental health problems. It is, instead, a positive state of well-being in which the individual:

  • is able to make the most of their potential
  • copes with the everyday things that happen in life
  • can play a full part in the lives of others.

However, many people with mental health problems argue that they can attain their potential, cope with life and enjoy fulfilling relationships as long as their particular needs are met. Others, of course, do not enjoy this positive state of mental health and require ongoing care and treatment.