Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental Health and Well-Being

Mental health is about the way thoughts, feelings, and behaviors influence daily life, and is critical for well-being.1 Research is needed to understand protective factors supporting resilience and to assess participation-based approaches that support mental, behavioral, and emotional health (e.g. mindfulness and trauma-informed care). 

  • Approximately 25% of U.S. adults and 20% of U.S children have a diagnosable mental illness or disorder that affects thinking, mood and behaviors.2 

  • Mental health conditions are a leading cause of disability in the U.S. accounting for over 13.5 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) or years lost to illness, disability, or premature death.2 

  • The current National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Strategic Plan for Research emphasizes the urgent need for “research that will have the greatest public health impact and continue to fuel the transformation of mental health care.” 2 

Need and Relevance to Occupational Therapy 

Mental and emotional health and well-being have been identified as 

  • critical for promoting participation  

  • an area in which evidence-based measures and participation-based interventions are needed 

  • an area that can be enhanced by listening to the perspectives of people with lived experience and partnering with people with lived experience in the research process 

Mental and emotional health is greatly influenced by environmental and activity factors, which can impact participation and health. Occupational therapy knowledge regarding factors that affect engagement in daily activities, particularly environment and activity factors, are needed to support mental and emotional health and well-being.  

Evidence-based and strengths-based approaches (e.g. mindfulness and trauma informed care) for supporting mental and emotional health and well-being are needed to enhance participation and quality of life. There is also a need to understand how participation serves as a protective factor and enhances resilience. 

AOTF is committed to the development of a scientific network and body of evidence to achieve effective and efficient advances in the area of mental and emotional health and wellbeing in both clinical and community settings. 

There are a few occupational therapy scientists who are building knowledge related to mental health and wellbeing.  However, there is not a coordinated network for occupational therapy research in this area, nor sufficient resources to train more occupational therapy researchers.  We believe a significant investment is needed to address mental health and wellbeing in clinical and community settings to achieve better outcomes and improve quality of life for individuals and populations. 

1. World Health Organization. Strengthening Mental Health Promotion. Geneva, World Health Organization (Fact sheet no. 220), 2001. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs220/en/  

2. National Institute on Mental Health. Mental Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/index.shtml 



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