Mental health is not a permanent or unchangeable state; instead, the mental resources of an individual vary according to situations and experiences in life. Good mental health forms the basis for personal well-being: it helps in tolerating temporary anxiety, strengthens the ability to act under changing circumstances and helps in enduring the inevitable difficult aspects of life. The Finnish Association for Mental Health emphasises the interaction between humans and the environment: mental health is considered a resource which keeps on developing throughout life in the connection between individuals and their living conditions.
Mental health is affected by various factors, such as the availability of social support, i.e. close relationship with family and friends, physical health and positive early relationships. Social factors, such as access to education and work, as well as the prevailing values and atmosphere in the society, such as the ability to tolerate differences, are important preconditions to good mental health.
Indeed, mental health is the sum of many factors; it may even be considered as the result of all factors involved in a person's life. For example a good enough self-esteem, a safe living environment and good problem-solving skills strengthen one's mental health. On the other hand exclusion and poverty, separations and losses and bad relationships burden one's mental health. When the different factors become too debilitating to mental health, mental disorder maybe the result.
It is not always easy to identify a mental disorder. Many mental symptoms are very common to most of us, only on a smaller scale. Everyone experiences stress that affects mental health at some point in life, and temporary mental pain is perfectly normal under difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, when mental health deteriorates, it is important to identify the disorder and to treat it properly.
Public health care classifies mental disorders according to their typical symptoms and degree of severity. Without proper treatment, the most severe mental disorders will incapacitate a person almost entirely. However, with proper treatment, people suffering from severe mental disorders can lead perfectly satisfactory lives.