Often, people erroneously take mental health as an all-or-none state: one either has it or he doesn’t.

People who view mental health this way do not recognize that there are shades, hues, tones and tints of colours between black and white. They distance themselves from someone they consider as having mental illness, seeing him as not just being in an abnormal state of health, but as abnormal.

Have we all taken time to ponder on what constitute mental health? Generally, what comes to mind when the word “mental” is mentioned are four inseparable psychological processes of thinking, feeling, perceiving and behavior. In what we consider to be “normal” state of mental health, the psychological processes are integrated in such a way that a person can optimally perform personal functions and interact adaptively with self, others and the environment.

What you will observe is that for everyone, depending on internal and or external pressures or relief, emotions shifts within a spectrum, thinking changes pattern, perception gets somewhat distorted and behavior may become maladaptive. Therefore, on the spectrum of mental health, many people “go a little to the right, a little to the left and not too far from the centre”. Depending on several factors, some may even shift to the far right or to the far left and still find themselves not too far from the centre within a short time. That tells us that we are naturally resilient individuals. 

When there is a shift which results in distress to self and or others or in impairment of personal functioning, lasting for a significant length of time, we say, for purpose of description, that there is an abnormal state of mental health. What we often fail to recognize is that the person in abnormal state of mental health is as normal as anyone who is in the normal state of mental health, just as we regard someone with hypertension to be normal but in an undesirable state of health.

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