Module 1: What is normal?

boat floating on water

Image source (derivative of) by Tomasz Sienicki / CC-BY-3.0

Starts Monday 28 October 2013

What you will explore in this module

  • How health and mental health are defined differently in different places around the world
  • How the concept of wellbeing varies between individuals
  • What mental illness is and is not

What is normal? What is healthy?

Some people say that being normal and healthy is a useful way of looking at mental health. Mental health includes such concepts such as:

  • freedom to express yourself and being who you are
  • positive sense of self
  • a sense of contentment with and in the world
  • accepting that emotional distress is a normal part of the human condition and it is normal to have to adapt to life's stresses and traumas

Visit the links below, and reflect on how other people view normality. Is this different to what you answered in your introduction?

How do we define normal? from How Stuff Works

The Normality Project - What is normal? (6:37)

Find out more

Following are some more resources about defining mental health and the role of resilience in mental wellness. We encourage you to share these links among your social networks (most pages have sharing options), and contribute resources that you have found in the forum.

Defining mental health

What is mental health?

Mental Health Basics

How to improve and maintain your mental wellbeing

No health without mental health

Denny Morrison challenges three commonly held but irrational beliefs about health care. First, that having a mental illness or addiction is a stigma ('To compare "having a bad day" to major depression,' he says, 'is a bit like comparing a paper cut to an amputation.'). Second, that the body and mind are two different things. Third, that if you have a diagnosis of mental health or addiction, it's 'a living death sentence'. Morrison is Chief Clinical Officer for Netsmart, the leading provider of clinical solutions for health and human services organisations nationwide. (Source: Tedx Talks)


As you begin to explore mental wellbeing, you will find the concept of resilience is used to explain how individuals and communities attempt to cope when faced with mental health issues. This is referring to psychological resilience.

Overview of Resilience. Blogs, articles and videos linked to a series of films about resilience called This emotional life.

Resilience: Build skills to endure hardship. Mayo Clinic.

Mental Health, resilience and inequalities. World Health Organisation (WHO), Europe.

Risks to mental health - an overview of vulnerabilities and risk factors. Background paper by World Health Organization Secretariat for the Development of a comprehensive mental health action plan, 27 August 2012.

Discuss the range of perceptions about mental health

Below, you will find 3 statements that aim to represent a range of perceptions about mental health that may be encountered. They have been written to open up discussion and are accurate examples of some of the perceptions and stigma around mental health (explored later in this course).

  1. Read each statement and decide which viewpoint you feel drawn to respond to.
  2. Find (or create) a resource that relates to, challenges or illustrates the statement in some way.
  3. Write a short entry (a few paragraphs) in the discussion forum (including a link to the resource) explaining how the resource relates to the statement you have chosen.
  4. Read and respond to an entry from one of your peers in the course (more if you have time).
  5. Use the forum voting tools to 'vote comments up' that contribute something important to the discussion. Try to respond in a way that encourages further discussion.


  1. 'Mental wellness is achieved by being socially active, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.'

  2. 'People who have mental health problems have brought it on themselves.'

  3. 'Mental health problems have increased around the world due to a lack of personal and social (community) resilience.'

Now...take the challenge

Challenge 1 is an activity that asks you to collect and summarise responses from your own circles of peers and share them within the course.


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