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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about mental health promotion? We have supplied you with a list of our most frequently asked questions about mental health promotion and the way we usually answer them.

What is Mental Health Promotion?

If we say that mental health is the capacity for each of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face, then mental health promotion is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals and communities to take control over their lives and improve their mental health.

Although there have been several definitions of mental health promotion put forth by various practitioners, our Unit emphasizes the following elements:

By working to increase self-esteem, coping skills, social support and well-being in all individuals and communities, mental health promotion empowers people and communities to interact with their environments in ways that enhance emotional and spiritual strength. It is an approach that fosters individual resilience and promotes socially supportive environments. Mental health promotion also works to challenge discrimination against those with mental health problems. Respect for culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity is essential for promoting mental health for everyone.

What makes Mental Health Promotion a unique approach to health care?

Similar to a health promotion approach, mental health promotion involves the population as a whole, and is oriented toward building strengths, resources, knowledge and assets for health, with the people and communities involved controlling issues and processes. Further, mental health promotion is an approach that sees all people as holistic beings, regardless of psychological or medical diagnosis. Mental health promotion applies equally to all people, sick or well, disabled or not disabled, problematical or unproblematic. It rejects reducing or confining individuals with vulnerabilities into a sickness, and emphasizes how important a mental health promotion approach can be to improve their well-being and quality of life, so as to help them overcome their difficulties. Thus, while a person may be identified as sick, needy or down-trodden, that person still has resources to draw on, skills to offer and talents to be nurtured.

What do we mean by resilience?

Resilience is an integral concept in the explanation of mental health promotion. Every life is a series of ups and downs; our capacity for resilience determines whether we bounce back from our lows and learn from them in a positive way or whether we are left in a state of frustration, depression or self-destruction. Broadly defined, individual resilience is the vital sense of flexibility and the capacity to re-establish ones own balance; the essential feeling of being in control with regard to oneself and to the outside world. The sense of being in control can be related to three fundamental concepts: a sense of being, the way we are and how we feel about ourselves; a sense of belonging, the way we relate to others and to our social, physical and cultural environments; and a sense of becoming, what we do in our lives, our aspirations and how we develop.

What do we mean by empowerment?

The concept of empowerment provides the very basic framework upon which the foundation of mental health promotion is constructed. Empowerment in mental health promotion can be understood as the people and communities recognizing and fostering their own sense of personal strength through determining their own destinies, and having the personal and material resources to do so in a supportive environment. Empowerment in mental health promotion also involves a sense of personal control; the feeling that one can rely on oneself or supportive others when facing difficult situations.

To sum up, a mental health promotion approach is built on the foundation of fostering personal resilience through empowering all individuals to strengthen their coping skills, self-esteem and personal efficacy and to effectively utilize the resources offered by a supportive environment.