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Mental Health vs. Mental Wellness: What Parents Should Know

Mental health and wellness mind flourishing with blossoms and flowers

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During the month of January, we at A Brighter Day, along with many others, choose to celebrate Mental Wellness Month. Mental Wellness Month is focused on recognizing the importance of attending to our mental health vs. mental wellness, seeing the vast prevalence of mental health issues and disorders that exist, and taking part in breaking the stigma!

To truly understand how significant this month is, we are going to break down and define some important terms.

Mental Health vs. Mental Wellness…What’s the difference?

The term mental health is used generously today, but the term mental wellness is not as well-known. To understand the similarities and differences between the two, let’s start by defining each of them.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental health “includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Throughout life, a person’s mental health can change. While it can be stable and positive at times, there are moments when it may fluctuate. These changes are normal and can be related to both internal and external factors such as stress, medical conditions, and significant life events. The status of your mental health is important through every stage of your life, from childhood to adulthood! 

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Now, let’s talk about mental wellness. The Global Wellness Institute defines mental wellness as “an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function; it is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow, and flourish.” Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at the Department of Health and Human Services explains mental wellness as “being able to cope effectively with the difficulties of life, having an awareness of your own abilities and opportunities, and having healthy relationships with yourself and others.”

She goes on to explain that the key to mental wellness is being proactive and taking care of our mental well-being before issues arise. By focusing on improving mental wellness and building resiliency, you can overcome the hurdles of life and thrive. It is clear that mental wellness can be interpreted in multiple ways, but at the core of each definition, mental wellness is focused on one thing: thriving. 

Now that we have laid the foundation, let’s talk more about the relationship between the two. It is important to think of mental health and mental wellness as two separate entities. This is because mental wellness is more than just the absence of poor mental health. The Global Wellness Institute explains that a lack of mental illness does not equate to mental wellness. Many people who do not have a mental illness still do not feel healthy or function well because of stress, loneliness, and other challenges.

Conversely, mental wellness can co-exist with mental illness. Research shows that the presence of mental illness does not imply an absence of mental wellness! For example, an individual with mild depression or anxiety can still demonstrate moderate or positive mental wellness that includes having good relationships, feeling happy, and functioning well at a job. 

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Text BRIGHTER to 741741 right now to speak to a trained counselor.

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You may be wondering, “How can I improve my mental health and mental wellness?” Here’s what to do.

  • Slow down: Notice with intention the things you are doing. Draw your awareness to the moment, especially those that are positive. 
  • Get enough sleep: Take the time to prioritize rest. Sleeping between 7-9 hours a night will provide mental and physical benefits!
  • Eat well-balanced meals: A balanced diet contributes to both physical and mental health.
  • Keep a gratitude journal: Keeping a gratitude journal allows someone to identify and reflect on all of the good things in their life as well as the things they are grateful for.
  • Ask for help when you need it: While many people think it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, it is actually a sign of strength! We recommend reaching out to your support system or resources when your mental wellness is suffering.  
  • Put yourself first: Self-care is not selfish! It is important to take time each day to care for yourself.
  • Focus on building personal strengths instead of weaknesses: Identify some personal strengths, focus on them in your daily life, and work to provide yourself with more opportunities to use them.

Mental wellness can help shift our focus toward a more positive and empowering approach, rather than just avoiding, coping, and living with illness.

It emphasizes our capacity to build resilience, reduce suffering, and find inner peace, joy, and fulfillment. By acknowledging that this is an experience that is shared by all people, there is no need to feel alone during our journey. Mental wellness can help us seek purpose, meaning, and happiness; and most of all, help us connect with others.

We hope that you join us this month in learning about this topic, commit to taking steps to enhance your mental health and wellness, and celebrate what this month has to offer!

If you are in need of resources, A Brighter Day has partnered with BetterHelp to provide access to free mental health treatment. Email us at to be connected to complimentary resources. 

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