Like keeping your body in shape, good mental and emotional health is part of primary health care and wellness. Your thoughts and feelings can influence your body in many ways. Mental health and physical health are linked, and each can have a significant effect on the other. Getting and staying mentally and emotionally well can make it easier to be physically well, and vice versa. And your wellness can suffer if you encounter mental or emotional illness, just the same as if you were to experience a physical condition. Positive mental health allows people to realize their full potential, deal with the stresses of life, have successful relationships, work productively, and contribute to their communities.
Mental illness is a widespread experience. In the United States, 1 in 5 adults will deal with a mental health issue every year. The World Health Organization has said that mental and substance abuse disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide. Unfortunately, there is still stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. Many misunderstandings about mental health and wellness and their relationship with physical health still exist.
Am I at an increased risk of having mental health issues?
Risk factors for mental illnesses like depression or anxiety are varied. Anyone can be affected,
regardless of race, age, gender, or socioeconomic status. Mental illness has nothing to do with
weakness or being lazy. People with mental illness cannot just “snap out of it,” and many people
need help recovering. You may be at an increased risk if:
- You have a family history of mental health problems.
- You experience social problems like poverty, stress, or discrimination.
- You have a personal history of trauma, abuse, neglect, or significant loss.
Stress, the way you feel when you are under pressure, can also impact mental health. All sorts of situations can cause stress, from daily matters like work, relationships, and finances to major events like a move or divorce. Sometimes, stress can be positive. Pressure can improve focus and performance during isolated situations like job interviews, but stress is only healthy if it doesn’t last very long. Too much stress, or stress that continues over the long term, can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion. When you are stressed, it often becomes more challenging to devote the necessary time to maintain your mental and physical health.
- What can I do when I am stressed?
- Ask for help from friends or family.
- Incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
- Don’t try to cope with your stress with alcohol, drugs, or overeating.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about your stress.
- Consider a therapist.
- Start a mindfulness practice like meditation or yoga.
Here is a 10-minute example to try: Yoga for Stress Management
How can I feel better if I am having mental health problems?
Recovery is possible. Many people recover completely from mental illness, though treatment can be a long process or even last a lifetime. Recovery means that you improve your ability to live, work, and participate fully in life.
There are two traditional types of treatment for mental illness: pharmacologic (drugs) and talk therapy (going to a psychologist or counselor). Many people can benefit from both. The type of treatment you receive depends on the particular problem you are having, so it is essential to talk to your midwife or other health care provider to get advice. As your primary care provider, your midwife can prescribe medications for you and discuss alternative and holistic therapies to try.
Many other therapies may complement traditional treatments for mental health issues. Evidence-based therapies such as yoga, meditation, exercise, massage, and music therapy can all help when dealing with stress or mental illness.
Everyone needs good support systems, especially when faced with mental or physical challenges. You need someone you can trust to listen to you and give you good advice without judging you. Reach out to people you know have your best interests in mind – partners, parents, or good friends. You can also find groups of people facing similar issues, and you can learn from and support each other. Building positive, healthy relationships are key elements of recovery.
By Discover Midwives Team, adapted from Our Moment of Truth.