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The Relation Between Mental and Physical Health

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Every March 2nd we celebrate World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a day in which we shine a light on the various mental health issues teens may face, and how they affect them and their families. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five teenagers suffers from any type of mental condition. Despite these alarming numbers, we still seem to give a much greater importance to physical health, instead of realizing that both mental and physical health play equally important roles in the life of a person. In this article, we will be discussing this topic, and explaining the close link between mental and physical health.


Common mental health conditions

First off, we must start by identifying common mental health conditions. The following are some of the most common, however, there is a wider variety:

  • Depression: Depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, emptiness, and a lack of hope, with symptoms that may decrease your ability to function properly at home and at work.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Anxiety refers to an excessive fear or anxiety.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD comes as a consequence of experiencing traumatic experiences. People with PTSD face disturbing and intrusive thoughts related to their experience.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): People that suffer from OCD have unwanted thoughts that result in them feeling the need to do something repetitively, for example, cleaning, washing their hands, among others.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): ADHD is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, and is one of the most common mental conditions, affecting children and adults.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder: People face great anxiety and embarrassment during simple everyday interactions.
  • Eating disorders (like bulimia and anorexia nervosa): Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating habits and associated distressing thoughts.
  • Bipolar disorder: People with bipolar disorder face episodes of very strong emotions that change suddenly.
  • Schizophrenia: Its various symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, lack of motivation, etc.
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Fighting social stigma

Most of the time, people that suffer the terrible effects and symptoms of mental disorders, also have to face the stigma and prejudice that surrounds them: people tend to think that people that suffer any kind of mental disorder are “crazy” or are “strange”, minimizing their experience, which actually is more common than most of us think: according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are approximately 52.9 million people living with a mental illness in the United States alone.

On the other hand, Some recommendations to fight the stigma of mental health by the National Alliance on Mental Illness are:

  1. Talk openly about mental health: By talking openly about them, we create a more acceptable environment for those who suffer from mental illnesses and make it easier for them to seek help regardless of age, gender, etc.
  2. Educate yourself and others: This way we can identify symptoms and signs and be able to help ourselves and the people around us.
  3. Be conscious of language: By using mental illnesses as adjectives, we are minimizing what some people actually live.
  4. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness: As stated previously, mental illnesses are as serious and as important as physical ones.
  5. Show compassion for those with mental illness:
  6. Choose empowerment over shame: We must encourage the idea that mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of.
  7. Be honest about treatment.
  8. Let the media know when they’re being stigmatizing:
  9. Don’t harbor self-stigma: If you suffer from any mental condition, recognize that you should not be ashamed of this, and that you are a valuable member of society.

Getting to know at least a bit about the most common mental health conditions and empathizing with those who suffer from them is very important. Regardless of your mental stability, we can all contribute by being accepting towards people with mental conditions and to fight the stigma around these medical conditions, and this helps us understand the real importance of maintaining a stable mental health.


The relation between physical and mental health

Our mental health is important for us to maintain a good quality of life, since our mental health also has a huge impact on our physical health. Both of them have a bidirectional relation, which can be simply explained, however there is so much more to it: a poor mental health is a risk factor for chronic physical diseases, and suffering from any physical condition is very likely to result in mental illness, given that diseases may come with a lot of stress. For example, people with anxiety are two times more likely to smoke, which represents a big threat to someone’s health; people with depression tend to be physically inactive, further increasing their chances of being physically unhealthy. On the other hand, obesity may cause depression or  eating disorders, while diabetes has been closely linked with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Unfortunately, many insurance coverages do not cover expenses related to mental wellness, but they can cover treatment for physical illnesses. If you are interested in being insured and feeling safe, #CallBlanca Now!  and find the coverage that best suits your needs.

How to look after your mental health and that of your teen 

If as a parent you suspect your teen is going through a hard time, the first thing you should do is let them know your concerns, but be very careful not to make them think they’re “crazy” or that it’s their fault. Offer them the possibility of taking them to a psychologist or psychiatrist, remind them that they can count on you and specialized people to deal with this type of situation. Likewise, seek support for yourself: mental illness does not only affect the person that has it.

Finally, encourage the following actions. In order to maintain a good mental health, therefore a good physical health, small actions go a long way:

  1. Do physical exercise: These activities help the production of hormones that will make you feel good.
  2. Talk about your feelings
  3. Have a balanced diet: This will help your brain function well
  4. Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  5. Seek help if you need it

Organizations and hotlines

We can’t say it enough: mental wellness matters, and there is no shame in having a mental illness, it is completely normal and you are not alone. There are many organizations, with specialists and trained workers ready to lend a hand, such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, among others. Below you will find some of their phone numbers where you can reach out for help. Help is a phone call away.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

NAMI: 1-800-950-6264

What steps are you taking towards making our communities more accepting towards people who suffer from mental illnesses? What do you think we could do better as a society? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!

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