Mental wellbeing includes cognitive, emotional and social health and is not just the absence of mental illness. 

Mental wellbeing enables people to develop their potential, work productively and creatively, form positive relationships with others and meaningfully contribute to the community (Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project 2008).

Mental illnesses are common, often disabling, and associated with premature mortality (Begg et al. 2007).

Adolescence and young adulthood is the peak period of possible first onset of mental illness. While it is crucial to prevent mental illness across the life course, VicHealth’s focus is on children and young people, as over 75 per cent of all serious mental health problems start before 25 years of age (Kessler et al. 2005).

VicHealth supports the use of population mental health initiatives that increase the protective factors associated with mental wellbeing and reduce the risk factors associated with mental illness. Building resilience is a pivotal focus, so that individuals and communities are able to cope with, recover from and potentially grow stronger from the experience of adversity.

A mother and her children take part in arts activities

A comprehensive and multi-layered approach is required to improve mental wellbeing. This will contribute to VicHealth’s goal of encouraging more Victorians to be resilient and connected. To achieve these objectives, the following areas of action should be investigated:

  • Work across a range of settings and sectors to increase the factors that contribute to resilience and positive mental wellbeing, particularly for children and young people.
  • Strengthen evidence-based approaches to mental health promotion in schools and other education and training settings.
  • Ensure that young people smoothly transition from study to work by working with partners to design and implement innovative interventions.
  • Utilise digital and online platforms to promote mental wellbeing and prevent mental illness and support further innovation and research in this field.
  • Support the positive link between the arts, physical activity and mental wellbeing and encourage participation and improved mental health.
  • Build positive social relationships in families, schools, communities and work environments that are equal, respectful and non-discriminatory, including focus on race-based discrimination and preventing violence against women.

Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project 2008, Final project report – executive summary, The UK Government Office for Science, London.
Begg S, Vos T, Barker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L & Lopez AD 2007, The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003, cat no. PHE 82, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R & Walters EE 2005, ‘Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication’, Archives of General Psychiatry, vol. 62, no. 6, pp. 593–602.