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What is Mental Health?
What is Mental Health?

From Ontario’s Policy Framework for Child and Youth Mental Health, the definition of Mental Health includes “all aspects of human development and well-being that affect an individual’s emotions, learning and behaviour.”  The term “mental health problem” is used to describe any emotional or behavioural condition that may be reflected in difficulties and/or disabilities in the realm of personal relationships, psychological development, the capacity for play and learning, and/or in distress and maladaptive behaviour.”               

According to the US Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health (1999): “Mental illness is the term that refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders.  Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behaviour (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

“Mental health problems [refers to] signs and symptoms of insufficient intensity or duration to meet the criteria for any mental disorder. Almost everyone has experienced mental health problems in which the distress one feels matches some of the signs and symptoms of mental disorders. Mental health problems may warrant active efforts in health promotion, prevention, and treatment.

“Although by definition not meeting criteria for a formal disorder, such problems may still cause significant difficulties in young peoples’ lives, and may warrant or benefit from intervention of some kind.   In some instances, mental health problems – although not sufficient in severity, duration or disability to require a clinical diagnosis – may constitute a significant risk factor for mental illness. Large-scale studies have shown, for example, that the presence of four of the nine symptoms of depression (one symptom short of meeting full criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder) increases the likelihood of developing the full disorder (Horwarth et al., 1992).”

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