Mental Health 3. 3. 2

Author: Ilona Koval Grubišić, Valentina Bolšec

Keywords: mental health, mental disorders, mental disabilities, mental health and disability

Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health. Mental health is determined by a range of socio-economic, biological and environmental factors. Cost-effective public health and inter sectoral strategies and interventions exist to promote, protect and restore mental health (“WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response”, 2018).

Mental health is an integral and essential component of health. The WHO constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities (“WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response”, 2018).

Mental health is 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. Mental health and well-being are fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world (“WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response”, 2018).

Determinants of mental health

Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time. For example, persistent socio-economic pressures are recognized risks to mental health for individuals and communities. The clearest evidence is associated with indicators of poverty, including low levels of education.

Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, risks of violence, physical ill-health and human rights violations (“WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response”, 2018).

There are also specific psychological and personality factors that make people vulnerable to mental disorders. Lastly, there are some biological causes of mental disorders including genetic factors which contribute to imbalances in chemicals in the brain (“WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response”, 2018).

Disability and Mental Health

Disability undoubtedly presents a dimension that increases risk for negative outcomes in mental health and stress. Results of studies provide evidence of a linkage between disability and risk for impairments in mental health. Nearly 4 of 10 individuals with disability have faced problems in mental health, which is almost double the rate observed for non-disabled. There is also higher risk for men than for women and for the young than for the old (Turner, Lloyd and Taylor, 2006).

Significant research has highlited that depression is commonly associated with impairment or disability. Increased rates of depression amongst people with disability are often a consequence of experience of impairment and functional limitations in the coexistence of social and economic factors that may accompany disability (Morris 2004). Causal link between impairment and depression also often rests on the assumption that acquisition of impairment is an experience of traumatic loss. Person with disability has to go through various stages of grieving before becoming psychologically whole again (Siller, 1969, p. 292 in Morris, 2004).

Sometimes disability can also be benefit-finding and post-traumatic growth. Many individuals believe that their disabilities have helped them to find meaning or take a more adaptive perspective to life. These individuals reported they appreciate personal worth regardless of appearance or ability, they value time spent in family activities and they became more thoughtful and understanding. Persons who have developed greater acceptance of disability will value their selfhood and maintain positive beliefs about themselves (Wright 1983, Taylor 1983 in Elliot, Kurylo and Rivera, 2002).

Individuals with a disability who have effective social-problem-solving skills and who have positive orientations toward solving problems are more assertive, more psychosocially mobile, more accepting of their disability, and less depressed than their counterparts who lack these skills (Elliott, Godshall, Herrick, Witty, & Spruell, 1991 in Elliot, Kurylo and Rivera, 2002). It is also very important for persons with disabilities that they are goal-oriented. Higher goal orientation is definitely associated with lower levels of depression, greater acceptance of disability and increased life satisfaction. We must also not forget the importance of social support which is crucial for people with disability.


WHO: Mental health: strengthening our response, 2018: retrieved 12.2.2019 11:48

Elliott, T. R., Kurylo, M., & Rivera, P. (2002). Positive growth following acquired physical disability. Handbook of positive psychology, 687-699.

Morris, J. (2004). People with physical impairments and mental health support needs: A critical review of the literature. Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Turner, R. J., Lloyd, D. A., and Taylor, J. (2006). Physical disability and mental health: An epidemiology of psychiatric and substance disorders. Rehabilitation Psychology, 51(3), 214.