Skip main navigation

A review of the week

Article summarising what has been learned this week.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

During this week we have covered a range of topics and learned more about how we think about and define mental health issues.

Mental health is a broad area that includes a variety of different health issues with many different symptoms. It is something that many people will experience within their own lives. With mental health issues on the rise there is an added pressure on reaching an accurate diagnosis.

Perceptions of mental health issues

Everyone has their own perception of mental health and health issues. During Week 1 you have explored some of the common myths that surround mental health issues and how mental health is generally perceived.

Defining mental health issues

Defining mental health issues is a complex matter and part of this week’s exploration delved into the methods we use to reach a more robust definition. We firstly need to actually agree upon or set a guideline as to what is a norm. This can be actually rather hard to define.

Defining abnormality

We use other methods instead to decide what is considered an abnormality and this is something that is agreed upon more widely. There are several concepts in place that help us to define what constitutes abnormality when we consider mental health.

Statistical infrequency

This is where a person is perhaps at a lower or upper end of the scale of a measure such as intelligence. This can be subjective in this sense as having a high IQ is seen as more desirable in society.

Failure to function

This covers an inability to function within society such as being unable to do everyday tasks or hold down a job. However, there can be wildly different reasons as to why someone may be struggling with basic aspects of life.

Deviation from social norms

Deviating from the social norms set by society can include minor issues such as speeding – something that many people do – but perhaps would not be labelled abnormal. On the other hand, dressing in an alternative manner, such as dressing in a punk style, is often seen as the start of deviant behaviour.

Deviation from ideal mental health

This is a definition of abnormality which suggests that abnormal behaviour should be defined by the absence of particular (ideal) characteristics. Jahoda proposed six principles of ideal mental health, including having a positive view of yourself and being resistant to stress. Therefore, if an individual does not demonstrate Jahoda’s criteria, they would be classified as abnormal.

Although these concepts are not the only way to define abnormality, they can be a useful tool to reach a more complete picture of what this means when defining mental health issues.

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Defining Mental Health: A Short Introduction

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now