Terms in Health/Mental Disorder

a. Mental Health

Mental Health is an integral part of health and the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as «a state of well-being in which the individual is aware of his/her abilities, can cope with the usual stress of everyday life, day, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to the community in which it operates». 11

Mental Health encompasses psychological well-being, but is not reduced to this. Based on the balance of mental functions, it translates into behaviors adapted to the different circumstances in which the individual is involved: developing and maintaining relationships, studying, working or pursuing their interests and making daily decisions about education, employment, housing or other choices. If a person’s mental balance is weakened or altered by a psychiatric or medical disorder, this can negatively affect their ability to choose, leading not only to a decrease in function at the individual level, but also at a broader level with loss of well-being for the family and society.12

b. Mental Disorder (major and minor)

Mental disorder, which usually translates into behavioral changes, is related to suffering, disability or morbidity caused by mental, neurological or substance use disorders. It is always of multicausal origin, involving genetic, biological and psychological variables, as well as adverse social conditions or other environmental factors.12 The different relative weights of each of these variables translate into clusters of different symptoms classified as different disorders.

To be classified as a disorder, these weaknesses must be continuous or recurrent and result in an aggravation or disturbance of personal functioning in one or more spheres of life.13 In general, it can be said that mental disorder is characterized by changes at the level of of thinking and emotions, usually with behavioral translation, or a combination of these, associated with a decrease (or loss) of freedom to act and/or deterioration of the patient’s daily life, social life, employment or family activities.14

Most people who suffer from a mental disorder do not like to talk about it or reveal that they are sick, for all the stigma that is associated with these diseases. The big advogacy that must be made by all social agents is in the sense of assuming and showing that mental disorder is a medical condition, like diabetes or heart disease, which in most cases has treatment.

Mental disorders can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, social status, income, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, personality or any other aspect of cultural identity. Although mental disorders can occur at any age, three-quarters of mental disorders begin in early adulthood.14

Mental disorders can take many forms. Some are milder and may only interfere in a minor way with daily life – these are minor mental disorders such as minor depression or anxiety disorders. The most serious disorders, called major mental disorders, have significant implications for the patient’s life, even requiring hospital care. Examples are schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and severe forms of anxiety.14