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The difference between mental health challenges and mental illness

Everyone has mental health challenges, just like everyone has physical health challenges. During the course of our lives, not all of us will experience a mental illness, but most definitely all of us will have challenges with relationships, emotions, death of a loved one, sadness, and the inevitable ups and downs.

A mental illness is a condition and challenge that has progressed either by external circumstances or genetic factors to an extent that a person does not have complete control of themselves or their life experiences.

Mental illness is likely not a condition that will be corrected by self-awareness practice, although it can help. There are many different types of mental illnesses, and they each have different symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in different ways.

Mental illness can fluctuate during someone’s life the same way physical illness can; there can be periods of illness and a range of recovery times.

Just as someone who feels unwell may not have a serious illness, people may have poor mental health without having a mental illness. We all have days when we feel a bit down or stressed by something that’s happening in our lives. Balanced mental health isn’t about feeling happy all the time. It’s more about living the life you want and feeling that you can cope well despite the problems that you are experiencing.

Just as it’s possible to have poor mental health but no mental illness, it’s entirely possible to have good mental health even with a diagnosis of a mental illness. That’s because mental illnesses (like other health problems) are often episodic—meaning there are times and periods of ill health and times of better health.

With the right support, tools, information, and sense of meaning, it is possible for anyone to live the life that they desire.


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