Did you ever ask yourself what is the difference between physical and mental health? And why do people normalize one but not the other? Let me tell you more about it.
According to the World Health Organization: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Physical health represents one dimension of total well-being. It refers to the state of one’s physical body and how well it operates. Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living, and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection, and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities, and societies worldwide. Therefore, mental health is an integral and essential component of health.
Physical wounds are easy to spot because we can see them, thus people normalize physical health. As Eric Kandel (a Nobel Prize laureate and professor of brain science at Columbia University) stated “All mental processes are brain processes, and therefore all disorders of mental functioning are biological diseases” He also adds “The brain is the organ of the mind. Where else could [mental illness] be if not in the brain?” Then why don’t we normalize mental health?
Brain function disorders have many causes and result from complex interactions between a person’s genes and environment. A person struggling with mental health should not be viewed any differently from someone experiencing a physical illness. Mental illness is not a choice or a failure. It does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social status, and ethnicity.
Consider that statistically speaking; you are one of those people that will likely experience mental illness at some point in your lifetime. There is a high prevalence of mental illness yet why is it a topic we’re afraid to talk about? In our society, mental illness is stigmatized more than any other illness or condition.
People see mental health illnesses as an equivalent of danger, violence, instability, aggression, and weakness. Because of this, people find it hard to talk about their feelings and disclose their mental health status to others, especially in the workplace. According to the Center for Mental Health, mental health costs UK employers almost £35bn a year through lost productivity, sickness absence, and staff turnover, according to the Centre for Mental Health, a research and policy charity. Another study has found that more than two-thirds of people who have struggled with their mental wellbeing have never told their employer.
Check this to know how you can normalize mental health at your workplace https://www.oxfordcbt.co.uk/normalise-mental-health/.
People living with mental health problems have to pretend that they are okay all the time while they are in constant battle with their thoughts. They have to constantly deal with stigma and ignorance from others. But why?
Do you know that in some cases, mental health can affect your physical health and in other cases, it’s the opposite? Various studies show that mental health conditions have been linked to chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and asthma. Not to mention that the actual symptoms of many mental health conditions manifest physically, such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension.
Let me tell you something, the science behind “mental health” is clear: mental health is physical health. Our incredibly complex brain is connected to the body through neural pathways made up of neurotransmitters, hormones, and chemicals. These pathways transmit signals between the body and the brain to control our everyday functions, from breathing, digestion, and pain sensations to movement, thinking, and feeling. This awareness of the mind-body connection is not new. In fact, up until about 300 years ago, virtually every system of medicine around the world treated the mind and the body as the same – holistic health. However, in the 17th century, western medicine became dominated by Descartes’ theories that the mind and the body were separate.
So let’s begin by understanding that the mind cannot function without the physical, and vice versa. When people start realizing that there is no difference between mental and physical health, they will start approaching their healing in more holistic and connected ways.