Understanding mental health Copy

Understanding mental health


What do you think of when you hear the term “mental health”? Write your thoughts in the space below. Record your response using Take Notes or another format of your choice.

Now watch this brief video from MindMatters Australia (now BeYou), which explores the complexities of defining mental health.

What is mental health?

As the What Is Mental Health? video explains, mental health is more than just the presence of positive emotions or the absence of mental disorders. It includes our capacity to successfully adapt to the challenges—both positive and negative—that life sends our way. It is affected by: 

  • our ability to solve problems 
  • our social connections
  • our understanding of the world around us
  • our thoughts, feelings and behaviours

In contrast, a mental disorder is a condition that causes significant distress or impairment in our functioning. There are many types of mental disorders, with very different causes, symptoms and progressions. Understanding mental disorders is complex and beyond the scope of this course.

Risk and protective factors

In the What Is Mental Health? video, mental health is defined as “a state of mind that allows you to cope with the endlessly inventive challenges life throws at you.” Furthermore, “that state of mind can be at any time eroded by risk factors or supported by protective factors.” 

In the activity below, drag and drop the Choices into either Protective factors or Risk factors.

Fortunately, protective factors can offset risk factors. And the earlier protective factors are introduced, the greater their positive impact on mental health across a person’s lifespan.


What protective factors do schools provide for students and staff? How can these protective factors be strengthened in your school? Record your response using Take Notes or another format of your choice.