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Why I use “mental wellbeing” instead of “mental health”

I get asked sometimes why I use the term “mental wellbeing” instead of “mental health” and what is the difference between the two.

The truth is that I stopped using “mental health” and “mental ilness” exclusively as soon as I started to distance myself from the medical model and look at our life experience beyond labels, categorisations and diagnosis.

This is how the concept of “mental wellbeing” set naturally into my narrative. But how do I make sense of this and how to I answer my clients’ queries? This is the real challenge.

So, let me share that I do no longer believe in dualism. I might have been programmed when I was little to think of life in terms of “either” – “or”, but in time I gave myself persmission to choose to think differently.

Therefore, I do no longet believe someone or something has to be good or bad, important or insignificant, healthy or ill. It is always something in between and it is changing all the time.

When we speak about health and illness, in particular at mental level, it is imposible to talk about absolute health or absolute illness when I see how complex our mental processess are and how dynamic our mental states tend to be.

As a result, I believe that no one lives in a complete state of mental health or mental illness at any given time. I see the mental wellbeing as the journey back and forth between these two poles of human experience which we call “health” and “illness”.

I envisage that the future will see polarised concepts like “mental health” and “mental illness” leaving gradually our vocabulary.

Moreover, I have this inner feeling that it will slowly become clear not only to practitioners but to lay people too that it is imposible to capture our dynamic and subjective experience into a label or diagnosis.

In time, I feel that we will recognize that it is more helpful to look at our changing mental activity through the perspective of finding support and enhancing our mental wellbeing instead of wasting time to fit our experience in the box. 

That is why I use the term “mental wellbeing” which I define this way:

MENTAL WELLBEING definition

“Mental wellbeing refers to the natural human manifestations that oscillate on a continuum of experience back and forth between well and unwell in all of us”.

~Nicoleta Porojanu

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