Intended for healthcare professionals

Views And Reviews Personal View

Mental illness is not a state of mind

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 05 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5333
  1. Marta Balinska, medical knowledge management adviser
  1. Médecins Sans Frontières
  1. marta.balinska{at}

“You will know very few happy moments in life, so make the most of them.” Those are words I often heard from my late mother, leading me to believe that life was going to be a painful affair. In retrospect I wonder whether she was dealing with chronic depression or whether she was “merely” dogged by unhappiness. But is unhappiness so different from depression? The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease,” which implies that if you are unhappy, then you are ill.

I am annoyed to see the umpteenth book published on how to cure your depression through mindfulness, …

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