Key Definitions and State of Play

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.

WHO outlines that mental health is:

  • More than the absence of mental disorders;
  • An integral part of health; and
  • Determined by a range of factors, including those that are socioeconomic, biological, and environmental.

A mental illness is different to mental health. As the Black Dog Institute explains, “a mental illness impacts how a person feels, thinks, and behaves”.1 Different terms are used cover this impact on how we think and feel, including mental illnesses, mental health conditions, and mental health issues. These terms cover a wide range of illness, the most common being anxiety and depressive disorders.2

Stigma around mental health means many people see mental illness as separate to time at work and something the develops outside of the workplace. Yet, mentally unsafe workplaces can contribute to or instigate the development of mental illnesses. Organisations have an important role in recognising how they can support and foster the mental health of their employees.

  • 1. Black Dog Institute, Workplace Mental Health Toolkit: Practical guide and resources for employers and employees, Black Dog Institute, 2020.
  • 2. SANE Australia, ‘What are mental health issues?’, 1 September 2021

The rest of this content is restricted to DCA members.