Fact sheet No 220: Strengthening Mental Health Promotion - April 1999
Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder
• The positive dimension of mental health is stressed in WHO's definition of health as contained in its constitution: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." WHO's 191 member states have endorsed this sweeping statement.
How does one define mental health?
• It is a state of well-being in which the individual realises 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.
Enhancing the value and visibility of mental health
• National mental health policies should not be solely concerned with mental illness but recognise and address the broader issues affecting the mental health of all sectors of society. These would include the social integration of severely marginalized groups, such as refugees, disaster victims, the socially alienated, the mentally disabled, the very old and infirm, abused children and women, and the poor.
Mental health promotion for children and adolescents
• Psychosocial and cognitive development of babies and infants depends upon their interaction with their parents. Programmes that enhance the quality of these relations can improve substantially the emotional, social, cognitive and physical development of children. These activities are particularly meaningful for mothers living in conditions of stress and social adversity. WHO has developed an international programme to stimulate mother-infant interaction that has been widely adopted.
Working life and employment
• Special emphasis should be given to those aspects of work places and the work process itself which promote mental health. Eight areas of action have been identified: increasing an employer's awareness of mental health issues; identifying common goals and positive aspects of the work process; creating a balance between job demands and occupational skills; training in social skills; developing the psycho-social climate of the workplace; provision of counselling; enhancement of working capacity, and early rehabilitation strategies.
Mental health promotion and the ageing population
• Ageing of the population is a highly desirable and natural aim of any society. By 2025 there will be 1.2 billion older people in the world, close to three-quarters of them in the developing world. But if ageing is to be a positive experience it must be accompanied by improvements in the quality of life of those who have reached - or are reaching - old age.
Measuring and promoting quality of life
• WHO has developed a tool to assess quality of life as an additional measurement, along with the traditional morbidity and mortality data. A primary goal of mental health promotion is to help member states improve the quality of life of their people and to place mental health firmly on the national agenda.
For further information, journalists can contact:
WHO Press Spokesperson and Coordinator, Spokesperson's Office,
WHO HQ, Geneva, Switzerland / Tel +41 22 791 4458/2599 / Fax +41 22 791 4858 / e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© WHO/OMS, 2000
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