The medical perspective insists that individuals get ill due to factors that are not related to the social world (Rosenthal, 2008). In contrast, this paper subsumes social aspects that contribute to mental health problems. Then, one argues that individuals, mental health professionals, and policymakers are responsible to address social conditions that facilitate mental health problems (LOE, 2012).

Social Determinants of Mental Health

Mental health exhibits a strong link to social well-being; and social well-being is associated with social justice and adequate social rights conversion (Carter, 2005; Herrman, Saxena, & Moodie, 2005). Mental distress is influenced by an interrelationship of biological, psychological, and social factors. Developing and developed countries carry the burden of poverty that is combined with low income, desolate housing, and diminished or non-existing access to education, which comes with feelings of hopelessness and insecurity accompanied with an increased risk of physical vulnerability to illness. A social environment, where unhealthy lifestyle habits, high unemployment rates, exertive work conditions, and violations of human rights are a daily occurrence result in substance abuse, violence against children and women, anxiety, and depression (Herrman, Saxena, & Moodie, 2005). For example, the Ontario Child Health Study conducted three surveys (1983, 1987, and 2001) of children between the age range of 4 to 16 years. As a result, physical and sexual abuse strongly correlated with living in poverty (MacMillan, Tanaka, Duku, Vaillancourt, & Boyle, 2013).

According to Albee (2005), one of the main factors of mental health problems is stress, where stress is caused by social injustice such as poverty, sexism, and being born undesired. For example, there is a direct link from poverty to mental illness especially for children who experience more than one environmental risk factor such as being part of a dysfunctional family, being orphaned, or living in a perilous surrounding (Evans, 2004; Albee, 2005). Another major stress factor that facilitates mental health problems is dissolute sexism. For instance, 140 million girls have been victims to female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide (WHO, 2013). A further determinant in regard to mental health problems … “is being born unwanted” (Albee, 2005, p. 40). The Commission on the Prevention of Mental/Emotional Disabilities (1986) ask for a prevention programme that would guarantee that every newborn child would be welcomed and wanted, born by a well-nourished mother and surrounded by a loving family (David, Dytych & Majejcek, 2003; Albee, 2005).

Individual and Social Responsibility

Altruism is a phenomenon within itself. Plenty of altruistic behaviours are shown and known on a local and worldwide base. Human cohesiveness is formed by a common cause – to help. On a smaller scale, prosocial behaviour or prosocial responding in times of disaster and with it altruistic behaviours are one outstanding characteristic coming to surface within the human species. The promotion of prosocial behaviour includes providing helpful models, using moral admonitions, and teaching moral reasoning. For example, Shotland (1985) suggests that helpers tend to be more self-assured. Other research has found that individuals who are characteristically high in empathy are more likely to respond to others’ needs (Kowalski & Westen, 2005). Let’s be self-assured and empathetic.

Thus, we are all able to help to prevent and promote health by establishing communities that provide for those in need with a safe surrounding, employment, affordable housing, good education, fair conditions at work, and a support system in cases of emergency in order to get back in control over one’s life, to diminish family and community violence, to protect our children, and to accumulate self-esteem. The participation within society will increase self-worth, acceptance of diversity, make-up for childhood trauma by bondage with such a society, and will strengthen resilience and as such the ability to overcome distress (Herrman, Saxena, & Moodie, 2005). The basis for mental health includes good and regular education (Albee, 2005).

A strong link between mental health and social conditions is evident. Thus, all of us are responsible – either private or professional as an individual or as part of a social community, state, or country. It not only is a question of altruistic, humanitarian, and Christian value, but one of meaning of life, too. Being individually responsibly means to promote emotional health by getting informed, starting discussions about what is wrong with a society who stigmatizes those who experience mental turmoil, and not to push them away from society but to take them in, and to strike against social conditions that cause it. Professionally, by raising awareness and by using the concepts of positive psychology to help to prevent mental health problems.

Beate Landgraf



Albee, G. W. (2005). Call to revolution in the prevention of emotional disorders. Ethical           Human Psychology & Psychiatry, 7(1), 37–44. Retrieved from University of     Liverpool online Master’s Programme, Approaches to Mental Health

Herrman, H., Saxena, S., & Moodie, R. (2005). Promoting mental health: Concepts, emerging   evidence, practice. World Health Organization. Retrieved from

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2005). Psychology (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Laureate Online Education (2013). Week 2 Hand-in-Assignment. Retrieved from University     of Liverpool online Master’s Programm3 of Applied Psychology.

MacMillan, H. L., Tanaka, M., Duku, E., Vaillancourt, T., & Boyle, M. H. (2013). Child         Physical and Sexual Abuse in a Community Sample of Young Adults: Results from the Ontario Child Health Study. Child Abuse & Neglect: The International Journal, 37(1), 14-21. Retrieved from University of Liverpool online library.

Picture 2020. Retrieved from Pexel

Rosenthal, S. (2008). Mental illness or social sickness? Retrieved from

Shotland, R. L. (1985). When bystanders stand by. Psychology Today, 19. 50-55. Retrieved from

WHO (2013). Female genital mutilation. Retrieved from