The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
The South African Federation for Mental Health focuses on promoting mental health for all South Africans, as well as promoting and protecting the rights of individuals with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities. Psychosocial disability is a term used to describe the experience of people with impairments and participation restrictions related to mental health conditions. Psychosocial disability relates to the effect that a mental illness has on someone’s ability to participate fully in life. Individuals with a psychosocial disability are prevented from taking part in opportunities such as education, training, and achieving their goals and ambitions. Not everyone with a mental illness will necessarily have a level of impairment that will result in a psychosocial disability.
Intellectual disability is characterised by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and abilities, and adaptive function and behaviour, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. The disability originates during the developmental period, so during early childhood or adolescence. Limitations in intellectual abilities refer to intellectual functions that include problem solving, practical understanding, reasoning, learning from example or instructions, and abstract thinking. This can include verbal communication, working memory and perceptual reasoning. Intellectual disabilities are classified according to severity into four categories; mild, moderate, severe or profound. Each level of severity comes with its own degree of intellectual, physical and adaptive functioning, and will require a specific level of support or care. There can be multiple causes for intellectual disability; it may be caused by a genetic syndrome, such as Down syndrome, or it may be caused by an illness such as meningitis or by brain trauma.