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Health Educ Res. 1998 Mar;13(1):57-66.

Current conceptualizations of mental health and mental health promotion.

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  • 1Centre for Mental Health Services Development, King's College London, UK.


Health promotion is generally agreed to be underpinned by a set of principles which distinguish it from other disciplines and professions. This paper takes these principles as the starting point for a review of the literature of mental health promotion. The aim is to clarify the ways in which mental health and mental health promotion are currently conceptualized, in order to identify areas where health promotion can make a unique contribution to complement that of other interest groups. In the first section, it is suggested that current definitions of mental health are inadequate for health promotion practice in that they either equate health with the absence of illness or present a culturally skewed, individualized and 'expert'-led version of what it means to be mentally healthy. The second section then traces the implications of these definitions as they emerge from the literature relating to mental health promotion practice. The paper concludes with a discussion of some ways in which health promotion specialists might begin to develop a mental health promotion agenda which is more consistent with health promotion principles.

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