Mental Health as a Continuum

The concept of mental health is applicable to everyone, not just to individuals with mental illnesses. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. No one falls into a simple binary system of mental health versus mental illness. Instead, mental health stretches across a continuum, and Chart A demonstrates this continuum's  four stages of mental health.

In the first stage, “ Healthy," a student is able to function as s/he normally would. The student will be comfortable, confident, and capable of performing at her/his best.

In the second stage, “ Reacting," a student has encountered mild, often predictable, and usually temporary stress. A new job or upcoming deadlines for a heavy set of papers might serve as the source of this stress. The student in this stage may feel ill or nervous, have difficulty sleeping, become forgetful, begin procrastinating, and/or reduce social activities. S/he might seek an extension for some assignments, but will not likely require further accommodations.

A student in the “ Injured" stage experiences more intense or prolonged stress; her/his functioning is more significantly disrupted. S/he may feel angry or depressed, have trouble sleeping, become socially isolated, and/or experience a significant decline in academic performance. In such a case, your campus health or counselling service may facilitate an accommodation or offer the student guidance on reducing academic demands.

A student in the final stage, “ Ill," is experiencing severe functional impairment as a result of a diagnosable mental illness, such as depression, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In this case, the student may have difficulty controlling her/his thoughts or emotions; feel depressed or overwhelmed; experience constant fatigue; and/or exhibit suicidal thoughts, intent, or behaviours.

Chart A:

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