Mental and physical health treatments should be more connected

Nicole Klein, Website Editor

Since you can’t get blood drawn at a therapist’s office and can’t talk about your personal feelings for an hour with your doctor, I used to think that mental and physical health were separate and treatment should be separate as well. However, there are many pieces of evidence that mental and physical health impact each other. I believe these two parts of our health should both be seen as equal, and health care providers should ensure that both physical and mental health are being addressed.

Think of the last time you were sick with a cold or the flu. Were you frustrated about not being able to go to a social gathering or getting behind on work? Now imagine being sick for a longer time. This frustration and sadness would most likely grow. Although this is understandable, many mental health problems that resulted from physical health still go unaddressed.

For example, about half of people who have Multiple Sclerosis have depression, anxiety or both. Although in the recent decades the link has been studied more, depression is still frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated in people with MS, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Since depression and anxiety may worsen thoughts of suicide and alcohol abuse, it is extremely important to not only treat the physical medical condition, but also the mental condition as well.

In addition, women with Type 1 diabetes are more than twice as likely to develop an eating disorder than women the same age without diabetes, according to Joslin Diabetes Center. Along with monitoring blood sugar, it is also important to monitor a patient’s mental health and get them help as soon as eating disorder signs are first noticed.

Since having good mental health is important to having good physical health and the other way around, they should be seen as equal.

As much as physical effects mental health, it goes the other way as well. Depression can have negative effects on the immune system, according to ABC news. Depression and anxiety are also associated with heart disease. If mental and physical health treatments were more interconnected, these physical health conditions could be more carefully monitored in patients with mental illnesses.

The good news is since mental and physical health are connected, doing certain things can improve the state of both, in a sort of kill two birds with one stone situation. Exercise is a great way to stay physically healthy, and it also releases endorphins that make us feel good, according to Mayo Clinic. Also, a healthy diet is good for both physical and mental health. The microbes in our gut can actually affect our emotions.

Just like how you can still get physically sick even if you exercise daily and eat well-balanced meals, you can also get diagnosed with mental illness while doing these things. When you become physically sick, there is no stigma about taking medicine, however there is a stigma for taking pills that help with mental illnesses. If prescribed, they are a necessary part of keeping you healthy overall.

Since having good mental health is important to having good physical health and the other way around, they should be seen as equal. There should be more communication between therapists/psychiatrists and general practitioners/specialists to ensure that a patient’s physical and mental conditions are both being addressed, so patients can be as healthy as they possibly can be.