Illness & Wellness Co-Exist

3. Positive mental health and mental illness, disorders or addictions exist together

Being ill doesn’t preclude being in some level of positive mental health – one can be both mentally ill AND languishing, in moderate mental health, or flourishing. In other words, mental health is not the opposite of mental illness (and it certainly isn’t the same as mental illness!). Positive mental health and illness are related, but do not develop along the same trajectory, so to be health promoting, a strategy requires more than treating illness and managing stress. Recovery oriented services are those that combine the maintenance of mental illness treatment plans with supporting the person to develop positive mental health strategies, to be able to be more in charge of the quality of their life.

The diagram represents the dual continua relationship between mental health and mental illness. Note this is a continua model, not a quadrant model, although it is also helpful to illustrate that someone can have some levels of positive mental health with or without mental illness.

Another  toolkit provides an overview of mental health, with more information on what is normal, positive mental health and on mental illness, disorders and addictions. 

Underlying all the diversity are the underlying mechanisms that give rise to behaviour, attitudes and responses to challenge. In organizations and societies these are a function of processes, policies and culture that have grown over time. In individuals, they emerge from brain pathways that develop throughout life, starting in the pre-natal period and influenced by intergenerational factors.

In depth treatment of brain development and its relevance to positive mental health, illness, disorders and addictions is beyond the scope of this toolkit, so references for further information are provided in Developing systemic and comprehensive strategies – Resources.