Today, mental illness has become far more widespread than physical illness.
According to an old report, in the USA one out of every twenty persons goes to a mental hospital at least once in his or her lifetime. And this number has increased with the passage of time. Social psychologist, Erich Fromm has written a book titled, The SaneSociety. He begins with giving statistics of prevalent crime rate-thefts, murders, rapes etc. – in USA and concludes that the whole society has become insane. He says that we are living not in a mentally healthy or sane society but in an insane society.
The unfortunate thing is that this fact is not generally recognized. Even if others think that a particular person is mentally unhealthy, in most cases the individual concerned would not accept it. How can people get well unless they recognize and accept their disease and approach a doctor?
What do we mean by mental health? We can define mental health this way: ‘A balanced and undisturbed state of mind, not only during favorable conditions but even during mentally stressful conditions.’ Mental stress could be of two types: acute and chronic or sustained. Seeing the two armies arrayed for war, with relatives on both sides, is an example of acute psychological stress, under whose weight he succumbed and showed signs of neurosis symptoms. Banishment into forest for fourteen years is an example of chronic psychological stress, who could bear it commendably without breaking down.
Now, mental illness and mental health can also have various grades. Positive health would mean not to break down under any type of psychological stress, no matter how intense, whether it comes in the form of temptation, threat, pain, fear, or suffering. Most of us cannot fulfill this condition and cannot claim to have positive mental health. We often break down temporarily under sorrow and stress if it is too severe, but soon recover our mental poise. This is the second grade of mental health.
The third grade would be when a person remains anxious or depressed, and continues to feel inner disturbance, but it does not express in his or her behavior and day-to-day activity. Most people fall into this category. There are those who require regular use of tranquillizers and anti-depressants to keep up their inner and outer poise. And, finally, there are those whose behavior pattern is altered so much that they need to be hospitalized in a mental institution.
We have emotions and sentiments, desires and drives; we have our will as well as the intellect. All these mental faculties of thinking, feeling, and willing must be harmonized together; otherwise we will ‘think’ something and ‘will do’ something else. This is our nature and if we do it overboard, our mental health suffers.