Yale Well

Resources for Student Wellness

What is Mental Health?

What Does “Mental Health” Mean?

Mental health is intricately tied to our well-being and is related to our ability to engage psychologically and socially with ourselves, with others, and with society at large. It “affects how we think, feel, and act” and helps us to “handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.¹

Many people assume that mental health is the inverse, or absence, of mental illness; however, mental health operates on a continuum. Everyone experiences fluctuations on this continuum as we deal with life’s “ups and downs,” and these fluctuations are not necessarily indications of mental illness. Having good mental health, however, allows us to respond positively to both good and bad situations and to be resilient during the more challenging moments in our lives.

What Does Good Mental Health Look Like?

Good mental health results from a complex interplay of biological, social, physical, and environmental factors, including life experiences. A person with good mental health is able to:

  • Recognize and utilize their skills and strengths 
  • Handle unexpected (and expected) life changes
  • Create and maintain meaningful relationships and connect with others
  • Accomplish tasks effectively and efficiently
  • Make thoughtful decisions
  • Play an active role in the community
  • Think positively about the future
  • Find satisfaction and contentment
  • Feel like a contributing member of society
  • Achieve a sense of purpose

What Factors Contribute to Good Mental Health?

Factors that contribute to good mental health include:

  • A rich social life
  • Supportive family and friends
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • Exercise

When Might I Benefit from the Assistance of a Clinician?

Having good mental health doesn’t mean that you will feel great every day or never feel the stress and pressure that life sometimes brings. However, there may be signals that indicate you are struggling and could benefit from the assistance of a clinician. If you are concerned or worried about your mental health, here are some things to look for that can help you make a decision about seeking professional care: 

  • Change in sleeping pattern
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Difficulty connecting with others or maintaining relationships
  • Difficulty maintaining focus
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Loss of interest in activities that usually excite you
  • Changes in appetite or eating behavior
  • Feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings that the future is bleak

If you are interested in learning about ways you can contribute to your resiliency and positive mental health, visit the Wellness and Self-Care section of this website.

If concerns about your mental health arise, help is always available. You do not have to face these challenges alone. With the proper treatment, people struggling with mental health often recover and lead well-rounded lives. Explore the Mental Health section to learn about seeking professional counseling at Yale Health’s Department of Mental Health and Counseling.

Some of the information on this page has been adapted from content at www.mentalhealth.gov and the American Psychological Association.

1. “What is Mental Health?,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/what-is-mental-health.