Mental health issues are often overlooked because the signs can be subtle and insidious. Even if we suspect something is amiss, the stigma attached to mental illness keeps many people from seeking needed treatment.
Also, many people suffering from very treatable mental health conditions are programmed to believe that since the problem isn’t outwardly visible or physically debilitating, it’s best to “suck it up” and wait for it to pass.
This is worrying because like most medical conditions, early detection plays a big role in having a successful outcome. It’s also sobering to realize that roughly 1 in 6 Americans suffers from some degree of mental illness, and only a small fraction of them receive – or have access to – any sort of medical attention.
Your mental health, no matter what its status, contributes significantly to your physical health. To maintain or achieve over-all wellness, both mind and body must be in balance.
Would you hesitate to seek medical attention for chest pain or a broken bone? Probably not, and it’s just as vital to get professional help for a suspected mental health issue for numerous compelling reasons.
To safeguard your overall health
As we’ve touched upon, the mind-body connection is intimately intertwined. Medical professionals confirm that a patient’s mindset can greatly affect their eventual outcome. The American Heart Association warns that depression should be considered a risk factor for people suffering from an acute coronary episode, such as a heart attack.
It’s also important to point out that physical illness itself can trigger mental health issues. Chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes or COPD, all too often impede a person’s ability to maintain employment or enjoy the hobbies and activities they engaged in with ease pre-illness.
In many instances, once mental health issues are addressed people also see improvement in their physical condition and personal relationships, which can lead to a delightful snowballing effect to better overall health.
Better quality of life
People suffering from mental illness have a much higher rate of school and work absenteeism than those not afflicted. According to the World Health Organization, Depression is to blame for 200 million works days lost each year. This can eventually cost a person their job or ability to acquire an education.
Joblessness can lead to poverty that blooms into bankruptcy, homelessness, and even turning to crime for survival. Those with mental illness also tend to have an elevated risk of becoming crime victims themselves. There’s also the matter of drug and/or alcohol addiction that often results from a person self-medicating their undiagnosed mental illness.
Mental illness also causes or contributes to problematic relationships, be it with your partner, parents, children, or anyone else in your inner orbit. Financial strain, lost wages, and sometimes the development of their own mental health issues result from dealing with a loved one’s untreated disorder.
All of this can lead to broken relationships and children who are left in the cold as their parents grapple with their demons. And sadly, these children often grow up facing mental health problems of their own and perpetuating a cycle of neglect and/or abuse.
You’ll live longer. Really.
Over time, chronic mental illness can greatly affect your immune system’s ability to protect you from illness. Not only does this mean that you’re more susceptible to picking up every bug that comes your way, but it also increases your risk of developing autoimmune diseases like M.S. and arthritis.
The stress and anxiety inherent in many disorders such as depression can initiate or exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema and worsen symptoms for asthma sufferers. Flares of these conditions are common when the psychological component of the disease is ignored.
The British Medical Journal reported in 2012 that even mild mental illness can have a sizeable impact on life expectancy. Those suffering from major depression or anxiety disorders are at a 94% higher risk of premature death, mainly related to cardiac issues.
Psychological disorders are one of the most prevalent, and potentially life-altering, medical issues of our time. It’s crucial we eradicate the stigma attached to these illnesses and encourage essential mental health services in our families and communities.