OUR criteria of mental health are based upon the premise that mental health is soundness of all mental faculties resulting from thinking and acting in harmony with God's will. When the soul is completely surrendered to Christ conflict ceases. In the words of Ellen G. White:
When the Spirit of God takes possession of the heart, it transforms the life. Sinful thoughts are put away, evil deeds are renounced; love, humility, and peace take the place of anger, envy, and strife. Joy takes the place of sadness, and the countenance reflects the light of heaven.1
There is loving, trusting regard for God and for our fellow men and an estimation of self which is in proper perspective. Received in the heart, the Word of God works like a leaven. In the words of Ellen G. White it will "regulate the desires, purify the thoughts, and sweeten the disposition. It quickens the faculties of the mind and the energies of the soul. It enlarges the capacity for feeling, for loving." 2
She states further:
The word of God is to have a sanctifying effect on our association with every member of the human family. The leaven of truth will not produce the spirit of rivalry, the love of ambition, the desire to be first. True, heaven-born love is not selfish and changeable. It is not dependent on human praise. The heart of him who receives the grace of God overflows with love for God and for those for whom Christ died. Self is not struggling for recognition. He does not love others because they love and please him, because they appreciate his merits, but because they are Christ's purchased possession. If his motives, words, or actions are misunderstood or misrepresented, he takes no offense, but pursues the even tenor of his way. He is kind and thoughtful, humble in his opinion of himself, yet full of hope, always trusting in the mercy and love of God'3
The apostle John gave an important criterion of mental health when he stated, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments."' He said, in essence, that observance of the commandments is evidence of knowing God. In the words of our definition we would say that observance of God's commandments is evidence of thinking and acting in harmony with God's will.
The observance of the laws of health is likewise evidence of thinking and acting in harmony with God's will. The scriptural basis for this was enunciated by the apostle Paul.
Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.5
If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.6
Christ gave to Israel definite instruction in regard to their habits of life, and He assured them, "The Lord will take away from thee all sickness." "There was not one feeble person among their tribes."
Ellen G. White reminds us:
These lessons are for us. There are conditions to be observed by all who would preserve health. All should learn what these conditions are. The Lord is not pleased with ignorance in regard to His laws, either natural or spiritual. We are to be workers together with God for the restoration of health to the body as well as to the soul'
A criterion of mental health, therefore, is the absence of unfavorable health practices that hinder the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the mind.
Both physical health and mental acuity are indexes of mental health. Physical wellbeing and a clear mind are the natural result of good health practices and may be regarded as both cause-related and effect-related to mental health. The reciprocally dependent relationship between body and mind is well known. The consciousness of rightdoing, freedom from guilt, and peace of mind—all gifts of the Spirit—are powerful health-promoting principles.
Also worthy of special consideration is the question of mental occupation and preoccupation—how time is spent in relation to character development. A proper use of time is both cause-related and effect-related to mental health.
The healthy person has a native curiosity regarding the world around him. Ellen G. White wrote, "The Christian should possess more intelligence and keener discernment than the worldling." 10
Another criterion is flexibility in the face of internal or external stress. The mentally healthy person reacts with control and does not become unduly emotionally disturbed by suffering, deprivation, or pressure from authority.
Finally, there is the criterion of freedom from gross symptoms of mental illness and of disabling inner tensions—the absence of clinical manifestations of mental illness.
The criteria of mental health are summarized as follows:
- Attitudes and behavior are in harmony with moral law, and show loving, trusting regard for fellow men and an estimation of self which is in proper perspective.
- Health practices are in harmony with the laws of health.
- Physical health is optimal within existing potential.
- Time is spent as profitably as possible from the standpoint of balanced character development.
- Intelligence and good judgment are evident.
- There is a high degree of flexibility under various kinds of stress.
- Gross symptoms of mental illness and disabling inner tensions are absent.
1 The Desire of Ages, p. 173.
2 Christ's Object Lessons, p. 101.
3 Ibid., pp. 101, 102.
4 1 John2:3.
5 1 Cor. 6:19, 20.
6 Chapter 3:17
7 Deut. 7:13.
8 Ps. 105:37.
9 The Desire of Ages, p. 2
10 Counsels on Health, p. 25