Models of mental health problems: a quasi-systematic review of theoretical approaches

Dirk Richter, Jeremy Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Mental health and mental illness have been contested concepts for decades, with a wide variety of models being proposed. To date, there has been no exhaustive review that provides an overview of existing models. 

Aim: To conduct a quasi-systematic review of theoretical models of mental health problems. 

Methods: We searched academic databases, reference lists, and an electronic bookshop for literature that proposed, endorsed, reviewed, or critiqued such models. Papers, book chapters, and books were included with material by researchers, clinicians, non-medical professions, and service users writing between 2000 to June 2020 being considered. The study was registered with the Open Science Framework (No. 

Results: Based on 110 publications, we identified 34 different models which were grouped into five broader categories. Many models bridged two or more categories. Biological and psychological approaches had the largest number of models while social, consumer and cultural models were less diversified. Due to the non-empirical nature of the publications, several limitations in terms of search and quality appraisal apply. 

Conclusions: We conclude that mental health care needs to acknowledge the diversity of theoretical models on mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-406
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Mental Health
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • Mental illness models
  • definition of mental illness
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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