Is it mental illness or a mental health problem?

With young people, and teenagers especially, it may be hard to determine if what they are experiencing is a mental illness or if they are facing a mental health problem. Mental illnesses require attention from a professional, while mental health problems may simply need the support and attention of a caring adult.

While diagnosing a mental illness is only to be done by a mental health professional, these are a few suggestions to determine whether support and assistance is needed or if additional resources should be sought.

 Mental health problems
  • are a common experience of negative or ­upsetting emotions or thoughts,
  • are generally triggered by an event or problem,
  • are usually associated with emotions and behaviours that are not very severe and are relatively short ­lasting and
  • don’t generally require professional help,
    but it may be useful.
Mental illness
  • is a less common experience,
  • symptoms may occur in response to an event or problem or they may occur spontaneously
  • symptoms tend to be more severe and long lasting and
  • requires professional help, which is essential in ­order for a positive prognosis.







There is no single cause of mental illness, and no one is to blame when someone develops a mental illness.

Step one
The first step in reducing the severity of mental illness is reducing the stigma that surrounds it, as this stigma is one reason why people do not reach out for the help they need to speed or assist their recovery. 


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