An understanding of mental health promotion requires a clear concept of mental health. Key components of mental health generally include the capacity to: enjoy life, use abilities and achieve goals, contribute to community, deal with life’s inevitable challenges and bounce back from adversity, and form and sustain relationships with others.
Because mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, a person can have a mental illness but still experience mental well-being (for example, attending college and enjoying reciprocal relationships). Conversely, a person can be free of a diagnosed mental illness, but still experiencing mental distress (for example, struggling to cope with a difficult life situation). This notion of mental health and mental illness as two separate constructs, first articulated by Health and Welfare Canada in 1988, is fundamental to our understanding of how mental health promotion principles apply to people with mental illnesses. Mental health promotion refers to the actions taken to strengthen mental health. It applies to all people — specific groups as well as the general population.