I get this question a lot, from both kids and adults. If you’re curious, the Canadian Mental Health Association has a great checklist that I’ve referenced below:
Mental health and mental illness: what’s the difference?
- Mental health and mental illness are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.
- “Mental health” is a concept similar to “physical health”: it refers to a state of well-being. Mental health includes our emotions, feelings of connection to others, our thoughts and feelings, and being able to manage life’s highs and lows.
- The presence or absence of a mental illness is not a predictor of mental health; someone without a mental illness could have poor mental health, just as a person with a mental illness could have excellent mental health.
- Problematic substance use is sometimes linked to poor mental health or mental illness; it can be a coping strategy for untreated trauma, pain, challenging thoughts or emotions, or other health symptoms.