Consumer, user and survivior views on the Promotion of Mental Health and Prevention of Mental Illness

Health, as defined in the constitution of the World Health Organization, is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

The World Federation of Mental Health's incorporating document explains the focus on "mental health in its broadest biological, medical, educational and social aspects." (WFMH)

The International Labour Organisation finds that "disability is not so much an impairment of the individual as a product of the environment in which he or she lives." (ILO)

The US Surgeon General explains in the Report on Mental Health:

Mental health - the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity; from early childhood until late life, mental health is the springboard of thinking and communication skills, learning, emotional growth, resilience, and self-esteem.

Mental illness - the term that refers collectively to all mental disorders. Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

The definitions and explanations are all arguable. Regardless, we used them for a starting point, and also decided, at this stage, to not be more explicit about what we are preventing or promoting.  A core group held an Internet discussion and others commented on drafts.

We talked about four spheres: individual, family, community, and research.  We discussed preventing mental illness (science), preventing disability (education, caring, ... ), and preventing reoccurrences (advance directives, self-management).

We are interested in pharmacological and genetic research that might lead to information about biological risk factors and prevention of illness. 

But rather than highlight prevention that means preventing the occurrence or the relapse, we would emphasize preventing the disability -- handling, managing, dealing with the event/situation once it exists, learning to find the transformative functions of our experiences, learning to use personal and spiritual support,  preventing a diagnosis from becoming a destiny, learning to control and manage our circumstances.  Meaningful service responsibilities and paid employment help to create a sense of personal worth and valued place.  Housing and elimination of risk factors like poverty and child sexual abuse  are fundamental to social integration.  .

We are interested in changing the pervasive dissatisfaction with the current system of care.  We discussed, and have not included, self-management techniques and specific input about the prevention of disability using a multi-faceted approach. Collating and combining the existing materials into a global unduplicated accessible format and then widely disseminating the existing materials would be a manageable next prevention step.

Broadly, we encourage an education campaign towards a social, family, and personal acceptance of difference.

If you have comments, subscribe to the prevention list or e mail to discuss how people who experience mood swings, fear, voices and visions participate in the global prevention and promotion dialogue.



Brody, E. The search for mental health. Eugene B. Brody, p 184.

WFMH. Articles of incorporation. (In Brody).

ILO:  World employment report, 1998-99.  Employability and the global economy - how training matters.  Geneva. International Labour Organisation, 1998:35.

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