Mental Health Continuum
To best understand the relationship between mental health and mental illness, experts look to the “mental health continuum” model. It describes mental health and illness as more than the presence or absence of emotional states; nor are they at opposite ends of a continuum. In fact every person lies somewhere along the mental health continuum and this can fluctuate on a day-to-day basis.
That means individuals can experience complete mental health even if they have been diagnosed with a mental illness; similarly individuals who are free of a diagnosed mental illness can still experience poor mental health if they have poor coping mechanisms (Keyes, 2002)
Bottom line: mental well-being is seen as “a balance of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional” that gives everyone—even the most vulnerable or mentally ill—an opportunity to live as a whole and healthy individual. The model explains that this balance is enhanced when people feel like their lives have a purpose, they have hope for their future, they feel a sense of belonging and connectedness, and they have a meaning and understanding of how their lives are part of creation and a rich history.
For more information, see “Positive Mental Health and Mental Illness,” Statistics Canada.
Also, see the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health video: Promoting Mental Health: A shared language.