Whenever someone says ‘health’ most people will assume that the word refers to physical health. The idea of considering not only our mood, but also the condition of our brains, seems be left out of the expression. So, as a person with a severe mental disorder, the question is: Am I healthy? I am in good physical condition, eat well, work out regularly and stretch. Physically, I am in very good condition, but mentally, I sometimes struggle on account of my disorder, daily stress, etc. Some would consider me very healthy, others not. Is there a more holistic way to reconcile these aspects of physical health and mental health into a more comprehensive idea of wellbeing? 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 one 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 an aspect of mental wellbeing. If you 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 physical trainer will be able to help them. No amount of performance enhancing products will fill the gap caused by a mental issue. It is the same with a physical ailment. No matter how much counseling one receives, a broken leg is still a broken leg.
Unfortunately, in our society emphasis on physical health has over 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 nonrepresentation of mental health has resulted in mass misunderstanding regarding those who struggle with it. This misrepresentation has promoted stigmas and stereotypes surrounding a crucial aspect of human wellness. This has further fuelled a perceived divide between our minds and bodies, but nonetheless, the connection between the two remains constant.
I think your take on the word health is very well thought out and more people should take a step back and think about it that way. Our mental health is just as important as our physical well being because without one, the other starts to fall short.