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University of Minnesota Extension

What is mental health?

What exactly is “mental health”? What are the differences between “mental health” and “mental illness”?

There are many ways to understand mental health based on our experiences, families and cultures. It’s not just about illness. We all have a state of mental health all of the time. A public health approach to mental health helps improve the mental health of all children and families, not just those with diagnoses. Watch this video to learn about a public health approach to mental health and well-being. Use the discussion questions to start conversations with others.

Discussion guide

Interested in leading others in conversations about mental health? Use these questions as discussion starters for the video. Choose questions that work best for your audience.


Mental health resources for professionals and students

Dive deep into mental health topics that affect children and families. Use these tools in your classroom, organization or training events.

Children's mental health case studies — Explore a robust story about a child experiencing mental health struggles. Learn how professionals and other adults surrounding the child and family can offer support and research-based interventions.

Children's mental health ereviews — Each online eReview issue summarizes research and gives practical ideas for use in community settings.

Annotated bibliographies — Find articles, books and other resources about mental health as it relates to stress, nutrition, poverty, sleep, and many other topics.

Mental health and wellbeing: A socio-ecological model

The Mental Health and Wellbeing Socio-Ecological Model was created as a way to visually illustrate individual, family, organization, community, and societal factors that influence individual mental health and wellbeing. 

Cari Michaels, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2023

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