“Toward a New Definition of Mental Health”


The World Health Organization’s definition of “mental health” is too closely identified with having only “positive” feelings, along with “working productively” and having “mastery” over oneself and one’s environment, states a European psychiatric team in World Psychiatry. They attempt to provide a new definition of what it means for a human to be mentally healthy.

“(S)uch a perspective of mental health, influenced by hedonic and eudaimonic traditions, which champion positive emotions and excellence in functioning, respectively, risks excluding most adolescents, many of whom are somewhat shy, those who fight against perceived injustice and inequalities or are discouraged from doing so after years of useless efforts, as well as migrants and minorities experiencing rejection and discrimination.”

The authors then attempt to provide a definition of mental health “aimed to overcome perspectives based on ideal norms or hedonic and eudaimonic theoretical traditions, in favor of an inclusive approach, as free as possible of restrictive and culture-bound statements, and as close as possible to human life experience, which is sometimes joyful, and at other times sad or disgusting or frightening; sometimes satisfactory, and at other times challenging or unsatisfactory.”

Galderisi, Silvana, Andreas Heinz, Marianne Kastrup, Julian Beezhold, and Norman Sartorius. “Toward a New Definition of Mental Health.” World Psychiatry 14, no. 2 (June 1, 2015): 231–33. doi:10.1002/wps.20231. (Full text)


  1. It’s a great idea to get away from culture-centric notions of ‘mental health’, especially those that focus on positive psychology. Unfortunately the proposed new definition imports much of the same faulty thinking as the one it criticizes – amazingly enough – and has the same potential to sweep large numbers of people into the category of ‘mental illness’.

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  2. LOL… “having only “positive” feelings, along with “working productively” and having “mastery” over oneself and one’s environment”…LOL

    If that’s healthy then a manipulative narcissistic psychopath placed in the position of power is the model we should all strive for. It does not matter if the “positive” is an appropriate response to one’s environment. Are you supposed to be “positive” after your child dies or after you got raped or when a thousand people die in a hurricane? Are you supposed to be “working productively” for less than a living wage in XIXth century safety conditions and in a job that you hate and consider harmful to the environment? The same environment that you are supposed to have “mastery” over? Are the people coming up with these definitions that dumb or that evil?

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