top of page
  • Writer's pictureLucy Johnson - Director

Mental Health v. Mental Illness - what is the difference?

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

Over the last few years we have seen and heard more and more people talking about 'mental health' and mental illness, but how many of us really know the difference between the two.

More importantly, how do we know if we are have 'good mental health' or if we are showing symptoms of suffering with poor mental health, or potentially entering a more chronic state of mental ill health or mental illness.

Mental Health refers to the way we think, feel and as a result how we behave. It refers to our individual state of wellbeing. Our mental health impacts on how we interact with others around us either at home or at work, and how we form relationships with others, also in social situations.

Someone in a state of good mental health will feel socially active, able to interact well with others around them, and will feel relaxed and self confident being able to laugh and smile with others. Does this sound like you?

Someone with good mental health will also feel resilient, and be able to handle life challenges and stresses, and have the ability to make decisions both in their personal and professional lives.

However, sometimes life feels a bit more of a struggle, and we may find ourselves suffering with mild or moderate mental health issues. Our ability to function on a day to day basis may feel more difficult, and we may notice that we find ourselves feeling frustrated, constantly tired, unable to concentrate, struggling with insomnia and experiencing feelings of anxiety or sadness. At a 'mild' level of poor mental health we may experience difficulties in functioning at home, at work or in social situations.

So what is a 'moderate' level of poor mental health. The symptoms here are more persistent, where we think and feel in a certain way for longer periods of time. For example struggling with persistent sadness or anxiety, and we may struggle with ongoing aches and pains, ongoing sleep disturbances and overall see a severe deterioration in how we function on a day to day basis.

Mental Illness is the next stage and this is referred to as a 'disorder' which ultimately results in distress and problems functioning on a day to day basis. Anyone can suffer a period of mental illness.

Mental illness is NOT the same as mental health.

Mental illness is more severe, and the difficulties in day to day functioning are impacted to a much higher degree. Rather than there being an 'episode' of poor mental health, which may be situation specific or time limited, mental illness is a more prolonged state affecting all areas of our life and day to day functioning.

We are all working together to change the stigma attached to the terms 'mental health' and 'mental illness' and over the last few years more and more people have been able to speak out, to access help and support and address their own mental health issues or those of friends, family and work colleagues around us.

It is so important for us to be able to understand where we are in terms of our mental health state, and using a mental health identification tool can help with this. Remember, anyone can suffer at any time with a mental health issue, or mental illness. However, the sooner we can access help and support when at a mild or moderate level of poor mental health, the less likely this is going to result in a mental illness, which then becomes so much harder to overcome and recover from.

We hope that by using the Mental Health Identification Tool you will be able to identify your current state of mental health. Do you relate to any of the symptoms below?

If you can identify with any of the symptoms in the tool above, and are suffering with mild or moderate poor mental health, please access help and support today either through your GP, through a local charity or organisation such as the Samaritans or MIND, or access counselling through

202 views0 comments


bottom of page