We continue to look at healthy lifestyles and the benefits that accompany them during the month of September. If you missed our first or second post discussing observances and physical health respectively, the links will take you to each post.
There are two forms of health remaining that we would like to discuss: mental and emotional. All three aspects are intertwined but it is especially true of mental and emotional health. We’ll be focusing on mental health in this post but it can get a little blurry when it comes to where mental health ends and emotional health begins because how we feel impacts how we think and how we think can affect how we feel.
Mental health is the ability to properly think and process information. Think of one’s ability to focus on a task, their deductive reasoning, comprehension, forming opinions, making decisions and so on. When we’re not able to process these thoughts properly, it can affect us in a number of ways.
Examples of mental health problems include psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, impulse control and addictions, obsessive compulsive disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorders. All of these conditions affect our cognitive abilities and can transform reality around us, making it difficult to focus on what’s required of us.
There are warning signs you can observe including prolonged depression, feeling extreme highs and lows, social withdrawal, delusional thoughts, hallucinations, inability to cope with daily events, and suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, consider seeking the advice and treatment from a mental health professional.
Aside from seeing a doctor for professional assistance and treatment, there are ways to combat and even ultimately defeat some of these mental health illnesses. Staying active, getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a healthy diet are all first line defenses. Additionally, challenge yourself daily and learn new things. Keeping your mind active will help keep it sharp and focused. Stimulate your senses, build or maintain close and supportive relationships, volunteer your time, and/or try meditation.
The reaction to what it means to be mentally healthy or mentally ill is still not where it needs to be in this country or around the world, but progress is being made all the time. Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been outspoken on the importance of seeking help for mental health issues if warranted. Despite what one may think of the royal family, they are giving mental health awareness a platform it didn’t previously possess. No longer should these diseases poison millions of people while those affected are laughed off and told to “toughen up”. As the prevailing thought goes, you wouldn’t hesitate to visit a doctor if you had a broken limb and so it should be when dealing with impaired cognitive ability.
Progress is also being made in health insurance. In 2008, a law was passed known as the Mental Health Parity Law which “requires coverage of services for mental health, behavioral health and substance-use disorders to be comparable to physical health coverage.” Essentially this new law “means that insurers must treat financial requirements equally. For example, an insurance company can't charge a $40 copay for office visits to a mental health professional such as a psychologist if it only charges a $20 copay for most medical/surgical office visits. The parity law also covers non-financial treatment limits. For instance, limits on the number of mental health visits allowed in a year were once common.” A lot of good information regarding the Parity Law and how it works can be found by following the link above.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health problems, don't be afraid to step out of the shadows and shine a light on the problem. One's mental health is just as important as physical health in creating a rewarding and happy life.