Mental health IS physical health – the two should not be thought of as separate

Everyone always talks about mental health being as important as physical health (myself included) like it’s a separate entity. In my opinion, the two should not be thought of as separate.

Mental health is physical health.

The WHO states that “there is no health without mental health.”1

I’ve seen so many young people who are suffering from poor mental health who suffer physical symptoms. It’s time this was highlighted.

Poor mental health can negatively impact physical health; causing stomach pains, diarrhoea, dizziness, exhaustion, skin conditions, headaches and shaking.

As adults we know that stress can effect us physically. We use phrases such as ‘burnt out’ or ‘run down’. We know that we’re more prone to colds and flu when we’re stressed. It happens to children too.

There are various ways in which poor mental health has been shown to be detrimental to physical health.

People with the highest levels of self-rated distress (compared to lowest rates of distress) were 32% more likely to have died from cancer. While depression has been found to be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease. See here.

Physical health is mental health.

We know that physical activity is a great way to keep us physically healthy as well as improving mental wellbeing. Research shows that doing exercise influences the release and uptake of feel-good chemicals called endorphins in the brain. Even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking increases our mental alertness, energy and positive mood.

Physical health is mental health.

So why is poor mental health not treated the same as poor physical health when the two align?

I gave my daughter a day off school once as she was suffering with severe anxiety that was making her sick. I was completely honest, but we received an unauthorised absence. It was not recorded as ‘illness’. Why is there not a register code for this? Why can’t we use the register code ‘illness’? Let me know if your child goes to a school that does?

Mental health is physical health. Physical health is mental health.

[1] Promoting mental health : concepts, emerging evidence, practice : summary report / a report from the World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and the University of Melbourne. (2004).

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