In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Mental Health

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Reference Works
  • Textbooks
  • Anthologies
  • Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • History
  • Definitions
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Practice Guidelines
  • Accessing Evidence-Based Resources
  • Specific Populations
  • Research Methods and Theories
  • Economic Considerations
  • Mental Health Principles, Policies, and Concepts

Public Health Mental Health
Vikki Vandiver, Nikki Hozack
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0112


An essential starting point for understanding and describing mental health is to also understand mental illness. Essentially, what is mental health, and what is mental illness? From a public health perspective, mental illness is considered a public health concern due to the fact that people with serious mental illnesses often have serious medical problems, co-occurring alcohol and drug problems, and higher mortality rates than the general population. Conventional descriptions of mental illness refer to individuals who exhibit clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndromes or patterns and in whom these syndromes are associated with present distress (e.g., painful symptom) and disability (e.g., impairment in functioning) and result in increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or loss of freedom. Mental health, on the other hand, can be described as both a process and an outcome that includes features such as purpose in life, self-acceptance, autonomy, positive relations, social acceptance, social actualization, and self-esteem. Mental health is considered critical to overall health and cognitive and emotional well-being and includes an individual’s ability to enjoy and balance life as well as to achieve emotional and psychological resilience. Strategies for achieving mental health are seen in consumer empowerment and recovery models of care as well as the uptick in the application of evidence-based practices and family- and consumer-friendly policies. The boundary between mental health and mental illness is not rigid but fluid, subject to social, environmental, policy, and individual influences, and there is no one definition of mental health. Until recently the focus of mental health research and writing was on pathology and the reduction of symptoms rather than on finding paths to mental wellness and improving quality of life. While there are many published works discussing mental illness and pathology, fewer explore mental health as an interdisciplinary field of philosophy, practice, and policy that emphasizes wellness and consumer preference. However, with the growing emphasis on mental health care reform, the number is growing. Although it would be impossible to provide an exhaustive list of all published resources in mental health, this article provides a broad list of common and not so common resources for any reader who wants to familiarize himself or herself with the intersection of mental health and public health.

Introductory Works

Though the focus of this bibliography is to increase knowledge of mental health rather than mental illness, it is difficult to entirely separate the two. Mental health can be a goal for those with and without mental disorders, and as a result the works in this section introduce and define mental health and mental health services from different perspectives. Eight main areas are reviewed: principles and practices in Corrigan, et al. 2008, self-esteem and well-being in Donnelly, et al. 2001, race and culture in Fernando 2010, an overview of mental health and children in Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences 2009, an overview of mental health in the United Kingdom in Kinsella and Kinsella 2006, psychology of being in Maslow 1998, mental health care and nursing in Morrison-Valfre 2008, a guide for consumers and family members in Canada in Plans 2004.

  • Corrigan, Patrick W., Kim T. Mueser, Gary R. Bond, Robert E. Drake, and Phyllis Solomon. 2008. The principles and practice of psychiatric rehabilitation: An empirical approach. New York: Guilford.

    This textbook discusses the importance of teaching skills and designing supports that enable people living with mental illness to function within the community and experience meaningful achievements with as minimal intrusion of symptoms as possible. The book addresses various realms of community involvement, including work, education, socializing, friendships, spirituality, independent living, illness self-management, family, recreation, sexual intimacy, and citizenship.

  • Donnelly, Joseph W., Norn Eburne, and Mark Kittleson. 2001. Mental health: Dimensions of self-esteem and emotional well-being. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    Using a holistic approach, this book examines the cognitive, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of mental health and incorporates public health, medicine and psychiatry, psychology, and health education perspectives.

  • Fernando, Suman. 2010. Mental health, race, and culture. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

    This text discusses mental health theories, practices, traditions, and innovations from around the world while acknowledging the ethnocentric racial biases found in Western psychiatry. Topics include trauma-informed care, culturally sensitive practice, cross-cultural collaboration, and resilience in the face of trauma and exile, social suffering, and violence.

  • Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. 2009. Preventing mental emotional and behavioral disorders among young people. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    Mental health has been recognized as an important service and program component for younger populations who are experiencing mental health and substance abuse problems. The Institute of Medicine’s updated report is a comprehensive resource for readers interested in the combined approaches of prevention and health promotion.

  • Kinsella, Caroline, and Connor Kinsella. 2006. Introducing mental health: A practical guide. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    Written for new and experienced practitioners, this book details the major mental health disorders using perspectives from the United Kingdom Mental Health Act of 1983. It includes information on risk assessment and management and community collaboration as well as references, resources, handouts, and case studies.

  • Maslow, Abraham H. 1998. Toward a psychology of being. 3d ed. San Francisco: Wiley.

    The third edition of this psychology classic, written by the founder of modern humanistic psychology, Abraham H. Maslow, raises and answers questions fundamental to human nature and psychological well-being and what is needed to promote, maintain, and restore mental and emotional well-being.

  • Morrison-Valfre, Michelle. 2008. Foundations of mental health care. 4th ed. New York: Elsevier.

    The fourth edition of this book provides a holistic view of mental health care for nurses and other mental health care workers. Chapter topics include psychopharmacology, cases studies, and specific psychological and psychosocial issues.

  • Plans, Miriam L. 2004. Mental health: A layman’s guide. Victoria, BC: Trafford.

    Though written primarily for the mental health consumer and family members, this book is an accessible guide to mental health practices that can be a valuable resource for mental health professionals. Topics include looking for organic causes of mental illness, proper usage of medications, working with support groups, and interdisciplinary practices.

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