The Importance of Psychological Health

psychological health

Psychological health is about how people feel and function, not just whether they have an illness or mental disorder. While disorders like anxiety and depression are common, people can also have symptoms that are not necessarily clinically significant but impact their everyday functioning such as fatigue or irritability. This broader view of psychological health has captured the interest of not just psychologists but epidemiologists, social scientists and economists as well (see e.g. Argyle, 1987; Diener, 1984; Kahneman, 1999; Ryff & Singer, 1998a).

It also has the attention of people who work in a range of occupational fields including safety and health, workplace learning and development, human resources, education and training, organizational development and management, and public health. A recent example is the inclusion of psychological health and safety in Canada’s new National Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Standard, which places a strong emphasis on psychologically safe workplaces.

In recent years, there has been an exhilarating shift in focus away from disorders and dysfunction to a more holistic approach to mental health, with research that highlights the importance of both well-being and positive functioning. This new perspective is reflected in the World Health Organization’s definition of health, which includes both physical and mental well-being and emphasizes a flourishing life rather than just a lack of disease or dysfunction.

One important component of psychological health is resilience, defined as an individual’s ability to adapt to adversity and thrive under challenging conditions. Another important element is a sense of meaning, which has been linked to an increased life satisfaction and greater happiness. A third element is self-esteem, which is the confidence and sense of worth that individuals have in themselves and their abilities.

A fourth and final aspect of psychological health is the ability to manage stress and negative emotions such as anger, sadness and fear. This capability is important because it can help people to cope with stressful situations and prevent the onset of disorders such as depression or anxiety.

People who experience low levels of psychological health may benefit from a variety of treatments. These include counseling and medication. A counselor, or psychotherapist, can provide a supportive environment in which to explore thoughts and feelings and develop coping strategies. Some people also benefit from group therapy, where they can share their experiences and learn that they are not alone.

Interested in learning more about how your organization can support a healthy work culture? Reach out to Deb Garland or Rachael Byrne who can assist your team in understanding the 13 factors of psychological health and safety. Then, they can guide your team through an action planning process to implement the Standard at your workplace. Click here for more information on the process.