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For some time, I have realised that there is confusion in the term “mental health”.

What is your definition of this topic?

 WHO define it as:

“A person’s overall emotional and psychological condition”. 

This seems to me very generalised, requiring an adjective like good or poor to identify further approach, need for help or encouragement to acknowledge wellness.

The Equality Act of 2010 defines it as:

“A state of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to use their cognitive and emotional capabilities, function in society, and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life”.  

MIND has a similar definition and both suggest an effective state of well-being and functioning. 

This leads me to suggest a visual representation as follows:










Mental ill Health is not just about the serious, long term conditions like Anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity (ADHD/ADD), Bipolar, Chronic Stress ,  Depression, Dissociation, Eating Disorders and Generalized Anxiety Disorder as well as Obsessive-Compulsive Personality issues, Panic Attacks, phobias, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia and Social Phobia which would cluster on the left side of the spectrum above.

Short term conditions like becoming withdrawn, increased negative thinking, inflexibility, poor time management, feeling overwhelmed and a sense of being unable to cope, would cluster in the middle band of the above spectrum. 

Mental Wellbeing is a state of positivity where life’s challenges are ‘doable’ and a feeling of happiness is experienced regularly. 

Using this model helps us to appreciate that life is a sliding scale – some people meander in the green/purple area and other in the purple red zone and with support and appropriate help it is possible to move from red, through purple to green.

I find this a positive way to work with one to one clients and it is a well-received explanation in my training courses on this subject for managers and their colleagues.  Words are important, particularly words that define individuals and in this topic, the opportunity for mobility gives hope to those who want to change their state and understanding to those who feel their mood has lost its sparkle.

Sometimes it is challenging to take responsibility for your mood, but when it comes to making a change, the individual is the only person who can pick up a self-help book, visit a doctor or therapist and begin to move from mental ill health to mental wellbeing.

Join Ann McCraken, the author of this blog, at the Health @ Work Summit in June, to discuss mental ill health in the workplace.


Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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