The Mental Health Continuum

Mental health exists on a continuum. It can change - move up and down the continuum depending on different circumstances - and can get better or worse.

The good news is that for any mental health concerns, if found and treated early, have the potential to be temporary and reversible.

This section looks at the NZDF Mental Health Continuum in detail, what you can learn from it as well as outlining some coping strategies.

The Mental Health Continuum

What is the NZDF Mental Health Continuum?

The NZDF Mental Health Continuum shows how levels of mental health are reflected in:

  • What we do (behaviours)

  • How we feel (emotions)

  • How we think (cognitions)

  • How we feel in our body (physical)

Common signs are reflected along the continuum, so you can see how your problems increase and your functioning decreases, as you move towards the right along the continuum. They are grouped into six themes:

  • Mood

  • Attitude

  • Sleep

  • Physical Health

  • Activity

  • Habits 

The continuum goes from healthy, adaptive coping (green), through mild and reversible distress or functional impairment (yellow), to more severe, persistent injury or impairment (orange), through to clinical illnesses and disorders requiring more concentrated medical care (red).

What can you learn from the Mental Health Continuum?

The Mental Health Continuum shows that mental health is not all or nothing – there is a lot of ground in between being healthy and being ill.  ANYONE can move along the scale to being injured and ill depending on the circumstances – no one is immune to becoming ill.

The important things to note are:

  • you can go from being healthy and move along the scale until you are eventually ill

  • AND you can go from being ill through to being healthy – this is helped by being resilient

Where we sit on the continuum at any point in time will shift depending on life experiences, the cumulative level of stress, levels of resilience (natural and learned) and levels of support. 

You should be aware of where you are on the continuum, and the signs that indicate you may need to use additional coping strategies or seek help to maintain your performance and mental health.

Coping strategies and knowing when to get help

By using the strategies below, you can learn to minimise the impact life experiences can have on mental health, and strive to maintain positive mental health and performance over time.

You’ll also know when it’s time to get help.