Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsMental Wellbeing and Mental Health are two related but independent concepts. Mental Wellbeing refers to our sense of self and our ability to live our lives as close as possible to the way we want to; a flourishing mental wellbeing is associated with meeting our potential, developing strong relationships and doing things that we consider important and worthwhile. Mental Health refers to specific signs and symptoms that cause significant and persistent emotional distress, which in turn affects our ability to function, process information and make decisions. The presence of such signs and symptoms indicate mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsIn the context of mental wellbeing, digital media can strengthen our sense of self by enabling us to be ourselves but they can also damage it by constant comparisons to others. Digital media can also enable or obstruct our ability to live our lives they way we want

Skip to 1 minute and 13 secondsto: they offer us a gateway to the entire world in terms of knowledge and opportunities, but they also encourage us to live our lives in a way that others want to see, rather than in a way that is meaningful and good for us. In the context of mental health problems, digital media can contribute to risk or maintaining factors, like avoidance, procrastination, stress or self-sabotaging; however, they can also have a protective function, for example by fostering mental health literacy, connectedness with other people and a sense of pleasure and achievement through digital activities from reading to gaming.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 secondsIn a nutshell, when it comes to mental wellbeing and mental health, digital media is like a gust of air; it can fuel as much as blow out a fire.

Is there a difference between wellbeing and mental health?

Having looked at what we mean by wellbeing, it’s time to explore the relationship between wellbeing and mental health.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describe mental health as an integral and essential component of health more broadly, defining it as:

“a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Wrapped up in this notion of mental health then is the notion of mental wellbeing. In the video, above, Dr Lina Gega unpicks these two related but independent concepts from a practitioner perspective.

Dr Gega is a senior clinician, researcher, teacher and supervisor with subject expertise is in digital technologies and mental health, particularly in relation to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), supported self-managed care and standardised interventions in primary care and the community. Her current research focuses on interventions with children and young people affected by, or at risk of, mental health problems.

Mental Wellbeing and Mental Health: Mental Wellbeing (here shown as an outer circle) refers to our sense of self and our ability to live our lives as close as possible to the way we want to. Mental Health (shown as an inner circle, right) refers to specific signs and symptoms (at risk, emerging, acute, long-term -- expressed by an arrow from left to right) that cause significant and persistent emotional distress.

She describes mental wellbeing as a broad “sense of self”, and an “ability to live…as close as possible to the way we want”. Mental health, by contrast, is defined in terms of “specific signs and symptoms that cause significant and persistent emotional distress”: the presence of such signs and symptoms constituting a mental health problem.

The charity Mind express the relationship in the following way:

“If you experience low mental wellbeing over a long period of time, you are more likely to develop a mental health problem.

If you already have a mental health problem, you’re more likely to experience periods of low mental wellbeing than someone who hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have periods of good wellbeing.”

As Dr Gega explains in the video, digital media can have positive and negative effects for both our mental wellbeing and our mental health.

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This video is from the free online course:

Digital Wellbeing

University of York