Biopsychosocial Model

How it impacts Mental Health

While traditional biomedical models of clinical medicine focus on pathophysiology and other biological approaches to disease, the biopsychosocial approach in our training programs emphasize the importance of understanding human health and illness in their fullest contexts.

The Biopsychosocial (BPS) approach systematically considers biological, psychological, and social factors and their complex interactions in understanding health, illness, and health care delivery.

The effect of the Model

According to Drs. George Engel and John Romano, the biopsychosocial perspective is more appropriate when analysing the causes of mental illness. This model introduces the idea that there are biological, psychological, and social determinants to mental health. This idea links the outside world to someone’s biology and psyche.  It also involves our consciousness, sentiments, and behaviours.

People with mental health conditions often feel very guilty about having them, so being able to identify  a cause that  was not their fault can be a powerful way of taking away  that guilt. It also helps other people to understand that the person is really dealing with a condition.


One reason why the Biopsychosocial perspective is so useful is because it explains how some people who are seemingly “healthy” can get mental illnesses and why some are more prone to mental illness than others.


Questions it can answer

It may sound rather complicated but some of the most important questions regarding mental health are:

  • What influences it?
  • Why does one person have good mental health while another is  poor?
  • What triggers an episode of poor mental health?
  • What is the root cause?
  • How can it be managed?

Most scientists now consider mental health to be affected by 3 main factors:

  • Biological factors ( e.g. genetics, brain chemistry, brain damage)
  • Social factors (e.g. life traumas and stresses, early life experiences, family relationships)
  • Psychological factors (e.g. how we interpret an event, beliefs, attitude, intelligence)

These factors influence each other in different ways, and it is this interaction between the 3 factor that  produce our overall mental  health it is not just 1 factor on its own. Have a look at the interaction of these 3 factors in this – Biopsychosocial model.

The arrows show that all three factors are all joined together and produce our mental  health. According to this model in nearly all cases, mental health conditions are the result of many different factors and do not just occur on their own.

Benefits of the Model

One reason why the Biopsychosocial perspective is so useful is because it explains how some people who are seemingly “healthy” can get mental illnesses and why some are more prone to mental illness than others. Those who are mentally healthy most likely exercise, have positive energy and strong social bonds does not exempt them from mental illness.

  • Firstly although we know that biological factors play a part, they are not the only influence, which leaves room for positive influences on mental health such as good working relationships, believe in our own abilities, cope with normal stresses of life and have a role in keeping people healthy.
  • Secondly through knowing that Social factors play a part they are not the only influence and so by encouraging them to build a social support network, manage their stress container, manage their work life balance, interpersonal communications, roles in life – (friend, partner, child, parent, worker etc), extended family relationships, cultural aspects – across multiple cultures, not simply ethnicity
  • Thirdly through knowing that psychological factors play a part they are not the only influence and so by taking control of negative thoughts about themselves a person can cope more successfully. This gives the manager an opportunity to  encourage positive thinking skills.
  • Fourthly the causes of mental health issues are complex, this means that as a manager you should not feel that you have to work out the cause to help somebody. Focus on influencing them positively whenever you can.


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