A Dual Continuum: Understanding Mental Health and Distress
While the majority of students flourish during their undergraduate years, many others experience challenges that may put them at risk. The mental health continuum can range from healthy and flourishing behaviour where students are comfortable, confident and capable of performing, to situations that create anxiety and stress, to clinical disorders that persist and impair ability to function in a safe and productive manner. The Centre for Additional and Mental Health defines mental health in the following manner:
Mental health involves finding balance in all aspects of your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is the ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges you face every day -‐ whether that involves making choices and decisions, adapting to and coping in difficult situations, or talking about your needs and desires. (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health [CAMH], 2003, 11.)
“Mental illness is the term used to refer to mental health problems that are diagnosed and treated by mental health professionals. This would include such problems as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, social phobia, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and personality disorders.” (CAMH, n.d.). Mental illness is not a result of personal weakness or character flaws, poor upbringing, or lack of intelligence. Mental illnesses can arise from a myriad of complex psychological, social and biological factors.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, an estimated one in five Canadians, in any given year, will experience a mental health or addiction problem.
The graph below illustrates how commonly post-‐secondary students experience emotional or psychological difficulties in Canada. In the 2013 American College Health Association-‐National College Health Assessment (ACHA-‐NCHA) survey, students responded in the following way: