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NHOC highlight: Expert emphasizes importance of promoting positive mental health




By Cari Michaels, Extension educator, Children, Youth & Family Consortium

Corey Keyes, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at Emory University, served as our keynote speaker for the Priester Awards Luncheon at the recent National Health Outreach Conference in Bloomington.
Dr. Keyes’ talk was titled “We cannot treat our way out of the problem of mental illness: Promotion and protection of positive mental health.” Here are some highlights from his presentation:

  • “Mental health” and “mental illness” are not the same, nor are they opposites. They exist within a dual continuum like this: 
    Source: Keyes, C. (2014). Mental health as a complete state: How the solutogenic perspectives completes the picture. In G.F. Bauer & O. Hammig (Eds.), Bridging occupational, organizational and public health: A transdisciplinary approach. New York: Springer Publishing.
    Source: Keyes, C. (2014). Mental health as a complete state: How the solutogenic perspectives completes the picture. In G.F. Bauer & O. Hammig (Eds.), Bridging occupational, organizational and public health: A transdisciplinary approach. New York: Springer Publishing.

  • The absence of mental illness does not imply the presence of mental health.
  • “Mental illness” is affected by our genes and our environment, and so is “flourishing,” which is a state of “complete mental health” and is the opposite of “languishing.” 
  • A person is considered “flourishing” if they have emotional, psychological and social well-being, which are measurable states.“Languishing” can contribute to poor health and functioning as much as “mental illness. 

Here’s the key point: Promoting and protecting positive mental health is as important as treating mental illness. As professionals working with children and their families, we have a role to play.

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