I want to talk about health, moreover I want to talk about health in a way that will not leave us further smothered by old arguments and clichés. Rather, I would like to break new ground in an attempt to integrate new subjects that have been stifled previously into the larger topic. I want to talk about mental health.
At this moment many may suggest that maybe I should direct my attention another direction, that topics that fall under the practice of psychology have their very own place carved out for them in society and should be retained thusly. I politely refuse such suggestions and would like to take such statements as an opportunity to further highlight my thesis.
Even within the English language ‘mental health’ is separated from the rest of ‘health’. Whenever someone says ‘health’ most will assume that the word refers to the physical. The idea of considering not only our mood, but also the more deep seated condition of our brains, seems not to have crossed our minds. I think that there are many reasons for this, but I will defer the subject for another time. For now I will focus on the idea of ‘health.’ As a mix of cultures and ideas we have many ways to define what constitutes a healthy individual and to what end. Though we have different ideas of what perfect health looks like, we can all agree that chronic conditions can be detrimental to reaching good health. Most of us have some sort of “diagnosable condition.” For example:
Some people have anxiety, while some have depression. Others even hallucinate. I have a schizoaffective disorder.
Some people have arthritis, while some have hypoglycemia. Others even have hypertension. I have no physical disorder.
So, the question is, “Am I healthy?” To be honest, it is difficult for me to answer sometimes. What I do know is that when my mind is not well, my body follows. I gain weight, lose endurance, desire, strength and ability. To completely reverse the situation, when my body is doing well I tend to maintain a better mood, can focus longer and wrestle with my psychosis less. In this way you can see a strange duality to human health. When one does well, it benefits the other. When one suffers it adds strain on the other. The two are directly connected and as such it is absurd to suggest the idea that traditional views of ‘health’ should not contain the aspect of mental well being.
Imagine an athlete who is in peak physical condition: strong, quick, and tough. However, his or her performance has begun to decline. They aren’t as fast, they don’t seem to have the same level of tenacity and they find themselves suffering injuries more easily. The situation suggests a state of unrest in the athlete. This could come in the form of depression, stress, loss of sleep due to mania or any number of other possibilities. In this case it is unlikely that a trainer will be able to help them. No amount of performance enhancing products will fill the gap caused by this issue. It is the same with a physical ailment. No matter how much counseling one receives, a broken leg is a broken leg. The counseling will not heal the broken leg, but the bettered mental health my influence the physical recovery in a positive way.
The human is strange in that way. The mind and the body directly affect one another yet have different requirements to be healthy. It’s as though you have buoys similar size joined together by a rope. What effects one will affect the other as they move together. If one becomes unhooked from its moorings it will pull on the other to drift in the currents. If one begins to sink the other will be burdened by the weight. Yet for some reason the buoys are each constructed from bolts of different sizes. The same wrench cannot be used to operate on the other, though the two are built analogously to each other.
Unfortunately, in our society emphasis on physical health has dominated any conversation about mental health. It is not that physical health is less important, but that mental health is just as important and therefore deserves equal representation. This non-representation of mental health has resulted in mass misrepresentation. This misrepresentation has promoted stigmas and stereotypes surrounding a crucial aspect of human wellness. This has further fueled a false divide between our minds and bodies, but nonetheless, the connection between the two remains constant. It is my dearest hope to see the rift continue to shrink in my lifetime and to play my part in that effort.
-Erich Zann (pen name)
Erich is the pen name of our guest student blogger who can be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily represent the views of Disability Access Services or those of Oregon State University.