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Starling Community Services.

Helpful Reminders about Mental Health and Mental Illness

HRMHMI 2023 Blog Website Card

While mental health and mental illness are often discussed in the same conversation, they are not the same thing. Being mindful of key differences can help us understand each other better.

What are they?

  • Mental Health, much like physical health, “refers to a state of well-being. Mental health includes our emotions, feelings of connection to others, our thoughts and feelings, and being able to manage life’s highs and lows.” [1]
  • Mental Illness refers to “a collection of disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety,” [2] and are believed to be caused by a complex combination of “genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors.”
  • Mental illness doesn’t determine mental health. Someone living with a mental illness can experience mental wellness, and similarly someone not living with a mental illness can experience mental health challenges.

Who is Impacted?

  • Everyone, in different ways.
  • We all have mental health and will experience challenges in our lifetime. Not all of us will experience a mental illness, however this may be more “common and widespread” than people realize. [3]
  • We may all be affected by mental illness through our own experiences or experiences of those close to us.
  • Systemic barriers and inequalities such as racism, gender-based violence, poverty, houselessness among others, can “worsen mental health and symptoms of mental illness.”

While language around mental health and mental illness is sometimes used interchangeably, understanding the differences can allow for more informed conversations, leading to better access to care.

You can find resources here if you are a youth, or a parent of a youth or child, and are in crisis or looking for support for yourself or your child.

[1]Fast Facts about Mental Health and Mental Illness - CMHA National

[2]Understanding Mental Illness (

“Having worked at Lutherwood for 26 years, it is incredibly heartwarming when I hear from former clients who reach out to share the success that they attribute to their work with us."