Mental Health Versus Mental Illness | Relationship Coach

Last week I talked with relationship and marriage coach Jessica Farmer, you can find that episode here, who helps women navigate their partner’s mental illness. This week I thought it would be an appropriate follow-up to have a brief discussion of mental health versus mental illness, what mental health/illness awareness is along with some considerations around why we don’t like talking about it.

What is mental health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that mental health is “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes 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.” It includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, affecting how we think, feel, and act as well as helping us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

What is mental illness?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking, or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activities. The majority of people with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives and mental illness is treatable.

Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. Many people have mental health concerns from time to time, but a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function.

I like to think about it as physical fitness versus physical illness, I think that they parallel each other well. When we aren’t feeling well physically we will adjust things in our life like our nutrition, sleep, and exercise; if things don’t get better we will go visit the doctor for an evaluation.

Our mental fitness is the same, there are many outside influences that can affect our mental health including our nutrition, sleep, and exercise when adjustments to these influences don’t help then we seek the counsel of a mental health professional. It doesn’t mean we are flawed, weak, or broken, it means that our mental health has been weakened and that treatment is available.

Mental health awarenss

Creating awareness of what to look for when it comes to a break in our own or someone else’s mental health. When we can recognize symptoms, know that these symptoms are a signal that something in our mental health needs attention it helps us to be proactive in getting help. A person doesn’t need to know how to treat themselves, they can recognize that something is wrong, like a spike in our body temperature signals that something is wrong with our physical health, and then we can schedule time with our doctor to discuss what is happening and start the process of healing.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults have had or currently have symptoms of a mental illness. This is no small number, if these people were suffering from a physical illness they would be more likely to seek medical attention but because mental illness is buried under a stigma of a mental flaw we ignore symptoms. Mental illness awareness helps normalize the breakdown of our mental health allowing more people to get the help that would lead them back to mental health.

We all have daily struggles and when those struggles get in the way of normal day-to-day functioning and the ability to enjoy life for some reason many of us think that there is something wrong with us. We feel shame and disgust that we can’t figure this out on our own and often it has people turning to food, drugs, and/or alcohol to numb the pain which only leads us further away from healing. If you suspect that someone close to you is struggling with a mental illness it may be best for you to schedule a visit with your own medical advisor to help you approach the subject with love and compassion while looking at how to best care for yourself.

In an effort to create awareness and help normalize mental health and mental illness my hope is to help anyone struggling with their mental health to discover hope and help, to not struggle with it by themselves. If you are feeling like you are not your normal self, finding yourself in a sleeping pattern that is unhealthy, a severe loss of appetite, turning to vices like drugs, alcohol, food, spending to avoid feeling emotions then please reach out to your health professional and schedule an evaluation. You matter.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner, it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

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