What is Mental Health?

What does your mental health mean to you?

It can mean different things to different people and our views about it can change as we progress through life. The World Health Organisation defines mental health in the following way:

A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”

Mental health is not simply the absence of illnesses, but having the capacity and opportunity to thrive – that is, to participate in the fullness of life to which Jesus invites us (Jn 10:10). We are a unity of body, mind and spirit. The abundant life to which we are invited engages our whole selves, physically, psychologically and spiritually. It touches all aspects of our life together in community – social, economic and cultural – because God created us out of love and for loving relationships.

We are social beings. We need the bonds of family, friends and the broader community to celebrate the joys and hopes of life. These bonds help us to face the usual challenges of life, but they are even more important in times of anxiety or despair.

We need the economic means to meet the costs of living, to develop our potential through opportunities to study, to pursue our personal callings through our work, and to plan for the future. A just economy ensures we can contribute to and share in the benefits of our society’s common wealth.

Through culture we make sense of the world and hold up shared values such as a ‘fair go’ and lending a helping hand to others in difficult times. A healthy and sustainable culture breaks through the material entrapments of consumerism and limitations of selfinterest.

As creatures made in the image and likeness of God we stand before the mystery of The Transcendent.

We feel deeply connected to something, and indeed Someone, beyond ourselves. These bonds of loving relationship to one another, to all of creation, and to the Creator of all that is, help us to experience meaning in life, even in its sufferings and limitations.

These are key ingredients for good health in body, mind and spirit. They point to the quality of personal and social relationships that promote the fullness of life for all.

Reference: Social Justice Statement 2020-21: Live Life to the Full Mental Health in Australia Today. (2021). Australian Catholic Bishops Council. Page 3.