Mental Health Education Scholarship 2020 – Mental Health: The Critical Piece to Effective Overall Health Care
From: Boston, Massachusetts
Mental Health: The Critical Piece to Effective Overall Health Care
Mental Health Education Scholarship 2020
“Take a couple of nice big deep breaths, with the eyelids closed and heavy, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth…. feeling the muscles in the body soften as the body exhales”. That is usually how my yoga class ends, with calm and relaxing meditation. It is therapeutic and the practice of yoga has proven to have numerous benefits on mental health. Traditionally society has viewed participation in yoga or more conscious exercises to be associated with eastern medicine practices. However, now we are seeing, more than ever, yoga and similar practices being acknowledged for their overall health benefits on mental health.
With western medicine focusing primarily on treating and diagnosing diseases based on individual symptoms and eastern medicine focusing on more holistic and natural methods; it may seem that their differences are too distinct to work as collaborative treatment. However, that is far from the truth. Typical treatments in western medicine are more reactive and consist of pharmaceuticals, physical therapy, surgery, or psychological counseling. While eastern medicine still focuses on symptoms it treats the whole body as a system and encourages overall health and healing. Their treatment methods are not limited to but include natural, non-invasive treatment like herbs, acupuncture, mind/body exercises (yoga, tai chi), and massages.
Perhaps a more integrative approach to mental health treatment, from both eastern and western practices, may be doing an intake assessment and identifying specific changes and crises that have happened recently in the patient’s life. While also considering other physical symptoms that may be related to or caused by other issues (i.e. depression, anxiety). This may provide better insight on how other systems may be affected. In these cases, a treatment plan can include pharmaceuticals, a well-balanced diet and psychological counseling, but also consider more eastern traditional methods like acupuncture, herbal remedies, or yoga.
Apart from traditional eastern and western medicine there are other alternative methods that can also be beneficial when providing mental health care. Mindfulness therapies have been proven to be as effective as other treatments, due to its emphasis on the connection between the mind and body. Some examples of this are meditation and hypnosis. There have been studies that reported hypnosis reduced anxiety levels and even reduced blood pressure in patients before surgery. Showing that though there is more familiarity with eastern and western medicine practices, there are other methods that are also effective in mental health treatment and education.
There are various practices that can be adopted that will promote better states of mental health for individuals. The two that I find to be the most significant are a nutritious, balanced diet and exercise. Exercise is a natural but universal remedy to addressing and preventing mental health issues. Yoga increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system. Studies have also shown that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication without the side effects. A healthy diet keeps the body’s energy levels high and improves brain function. The brain needs essential vitamins and minerals to function and keeping these low increases the risk of mental health issues, like depression.
Though no one is exempt from developing mental health issues or experiencing a mental health crisis, there are some factors that may reduce the risk. Risk factors such as homelessness, school dropout, and marital instability all can impede future earnings, create barriers to socioeconomic improvement, and increase mental health disorder risk. However, there are some determinants that are known to contribute to better states of mental health. Positive factors such as gainful employment, healthy familial and romantic relationships, economic security, and a positive work environment can all lead to positive mental health outcomes. Usually these individuals feel equipped with the resources and coping skills to overcome when problems do arise.
As progressive as health care has been in recent decades, mental health treatment is still trailing behind. Integrating eastern and western medicine practices when treating mental health could contribute greatly to already existing approaches. Eastern practices would add to not only healing but prevention as well, which in turn will create better health outcomes all around. Additionally, understanding the role that society plays in promoting positive mental health outcomes for its citizens is just as important. Societal values and customs can encourage people to participate in behaviors that will support positive views on mental health. The importance of mental health in an individual’s overall health is critical and should not be overlooked, instead there should be more access and quality health care services to promote it.
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