Mental health-related discourses represent how mental health has been defined, communicated, and disseminated within society. These discourses have been shaped and constructed by various individuals, groups, and institutions and have only recently started to be examined systematically. 

The World Health Organization defines “mental health” as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community” (2017, p. 1). Thus, the overarching goal of mental health-related discourses is to promote mental health or instead prevent mental illness.

Recently, there has been an increase in both scholarly and media attention to mental health-related discourses. These discourses span the spectrum of various mental health fields, including psychology, psychiatry, social work, and education. The topic has become prominent due to the recent uptick in suicide rates both in the U.S and globally, which has led to advocacy efforts and increased mental health awareness.

The mental health community’s efforts to reframe and reshape the conversation around mental health are important. The conversations in mental health spaces must never lose sight of this and must instead always work to keep mental health at the core and center of our discussions and actions. The mental health field should cultivate conversations that encourage a greater understanding and acceptance of people’s mental health experiences by striving to improve continually.

In any given year, American adults and nearly 40% of adults struggle with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. These statistics have become increasingly prevalent over the last 20 years, and mental health disorders affect people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Mental health is an issue that concerns all of us, even those of us without personal experiences with mental illness. But how do we go about having the conversation about mental health? Should we be talking about mental illness at all? 

The importance of mental health-related discourse has been increasingly emphasized amidst the recent political drama. With repeated breakdowns of civility, violence and partisan behavior becoming increasingly prevalent in America, mental health has become a hotly contested topic. However, the fight for mental health awareness has been an ongoing movement for years.

The overcasting stigma of mental illness has prevented people from actually admitting they need help in today’s society. But, even if people are beginning to seek treatment for their mental health problems, there is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness that it is still difficult for people to open up about it. Some do, some don’t.

Fields of mental health are growing, and mental health-related discourses are expanding along with it. The number of mental illnesses and symptoms has increased over time as we have learned more about them, not to mention more tools to diagnose and treat them. And, of course, with today’s Internet, it’s never been easier to have a global conversation about mental health. But is this a good thing, or are we losing valuable perspectives and information?

Mental health-related discourses (mental health conversations) are an important avenue through which people engage with issues related to mental health. This mode of communication holds both power to influence public perceptions as well as the potential to cause harm. The ways in which mental health-related discourses are constructed, defined, and enacted are important in understanding the role of mental health in the broad public sphere.

These discourses are the channels through which mental health is communicated and communicated about. They make explicit or implicit claims about what is “normal” and “inadequate,” and in so doing, they shape how we understand, navigate, and treat mental illness. More specifically, discourses feed into how we speak about and view mental health, and they determine what and how mental health services are accessed.