We have heard a lot about mental health on the media over the past few weeks. I have noticed that many people have been asking questions about this topic, which is very positive as it helps us become more aware of what mental health is and how to prevent or treat mental health illnesses. I decided to write this blog as I wanted to answer some of the questions which have been asked, and I am hoping that this blog (which has 2 parts) may also help dispel some myths about mental illness.

  • What is the difference between mental health and mental health illness?

‘Mental health’ and ‘mental illness’ are sometimes used interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. Everyone has mental health, and when we talk about mental health, we’re talking about our mental well-being: our emotions, our thoughts and feelings. A person with good mental health will feel in control of their emotions, have good cognitive functioning, and positive interactions with people around them.

A mental illness is an illness the affects people’s thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others. There are many different mental illnesses, and they have different    symptoms that impact peoples’ lives in various ways.

  • What is the difference between a mental health problem and a mental health illness?

A mental illness affects different aspects of a person’s life and may disrupt the person’s ability to carry out daily activities. Some people have only one episode of mental illness in their lifetime, while others have multiple episodes with periods of wellness in between.

A mental health problem is a wider term including both mental illnesses and symptoms that may not be severe enough to warrant the diagnosis of a mental illness.

  • What causes mental health illness?

No one factor can cause mental illnesses. Mental illness can affect people of all ages, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. Mental health difficulties are caused as a result of the person’s environment, biological makeup or a combination of both. This means that mental illness can be caused by genetics or biological factors such as chemical imbalances, hormones, or prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. They can also be the result of abusive or neglectful treatment or stressful events such as having a physical illness or disability.

  • Are mental health illnesses common?

Yes, they are common. According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 1 in 4 people will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. In fact, mental illness is one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

  • Do children have mental health problems? Or are their problems just part of growing up?

Even children can experience mental illnesses. In fact, many mental illnesses first appear when a person is young. Approximately 70% of adult mental illness begins during childhood or adolescence, including: depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders.


Claire Borg is a gestalt psychotherapist at Willingness. She works with adolescents and adults. She has a special interest in mental health. She can be contacted on claire@willingness.com.mt.