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Do we need to stop talking about "mental health"​?

Our mental health is complex. It is a multi-faceted construct that is constantly shifting and can change dramatically over a short period of time. There are plethora of different risk factors and protective factors to understand and many different approaches from prevention to recovery and everything in between.


For this reason, I believe we need to advance beyond "improving mental health", "mental health awareness" and "mental health experts". We need to improve the application of certain phrases and particularly tackle the blurred boundaries and lack of distinction between poor mental health and mental illness. We need to be much more specific, sophisticated and accurate with our understanding and vocabulary.


We wouldn’t dream of using this catch-all approach to our physical health; instead we have professionals operating in very specific fields within this area. For example, since running a half marathon several weeks ago, I have had problems with my knee. Now, I may visit my GP and request an X-Ray with a radiologist who may then refer me to an orthopaedic specialist. Alternatively, I may speak to a physiotherapist. I may also choose to speak to my Personal Trainer about exercises I could use to help strengthen my quads. There are all specialists with expert knowledge in their field; they respect their own credentials and those of their peers and (in the most part) do not act outside the boundaries of their expertise.


Yet we appear to have adopted this umbrella term to our mental health which really doesn’t make sense. Mental health is not a single unit or entity so it should not be treated as one. From an organisational perspective, employers need to move away from having isolated events or days talking about improving mental health and be much more targeted and focused in their approach, being mindful of exactly what needs are being addressed and why, what challenges they want to overcome and what they want to achieve.