Unfortunately, many people casually use mental illness terms to describe certain situations. For example, someone saying, “I’m so OCD!” when they insist upon having a clean workspace or saying, “I was so depressed when March Madness was canceled,” to describe feelings of disappointment. These casual statements misrepresent the important differences that exist among emotional wellbeing, mental health, and mental illness.
Emotional Wellbeing is defined as having both an awareness of your emotions and the ability to manage and express those feelings in a healthy and age-appropriate manner. It includes having both good mental and physical health, high life satisfaction, and a sense of meaning. More generally, wellbeing is just feeling good about yourself and your life.
Mental Health is made up of our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It can be negatively impacted by such things as living in a difficult marriage, struggling with aging parents, or poor work/life balance.
Mental Illnesses are specific, diagnosable health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of the three). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities. They are medical diagnoses that have behavioral components like any medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
Understanding the differences among the three terms can go a long way to helping ensure that you have employee benefits and support in place for the entire continuum.