Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

June 11, 2012

Wellness for all

Suzanne Koesel
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Mental Health Month is an annual observance designed to raise awareness of mental health conditions and promote mental wellness for all.

It is the perfect time for us to consider the essential link between our minds and our bodies and how our mental and physical health positively and negatively impact one another.

This is an important consideration for all Americans for our own health as individuals and as we contemplate major changes in our healthcare system.  Too often, we allow mental health to take a backseat to physical health. This is a paradigm that we must change because it jeopardizes the overall health and well-being of many and contributes to significant costs in our healthcare system.

Many people with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia experience increased problems with chronic health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Take diabetes and depression as an example. Studies have shown that people with depression are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who do not have symptoms of depression. People who are depressed are more likely to eat more, exercise less and smoke, all contributing risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. The more serious their depression symptoms appear, the higher their risk of diabetes.

This connection between depression and diabetes works both ways. Research also has revealed that depression makes it harder for people with type 2 diabetes to keep their blood sugar levels in check. This is especially alarming when coupled with data that 30 percent of our nation's more than 25 million diabetics will experience depression at some point in their lives.

Left untreated, mental health issues usually worsen and cause a person's physical health to deteriorate, leading to higher expenses for our healthcare system. Countless studies have shown that people with mental health disorders typically have less access to healthcare, are less motivated to proactively seek healthcare and are less like to adhere to medical treatment than their counterparts without a mental health disorder. This can lead to higher rates of morbidity, mortality, and hospital admission and re-admission.

To ensure the best health outcomes, we must begin considering our mental health equally along with our physical health, and recognize how they impact each other. It is necessary that we promote good mental health in order to increase our overall physical health and well-being and live happy, healthy lives.

We should encourage people to seek assistance if they have a mental health concern and to talk openly with their doctors about their emotional as well as physical well-being. We must get to the root of any mental health problem in order to prevent the physical health deterioration.

On a larger scale, when considering the evolution of our healthcare system, we must examine how mental healthcare will be an integral part of future changes. We must begin more integration of physical and mental healthcare, encouraging mental health and physical health providers to collaborate and coordinate their care.  By doing this, we can improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

I encourage everyone to use this as the kicking off point for a great change in how we consider health. Together, by honoring the essential link between our minds and our bodies, we have a great opportunity to make ourselves and our healthcare system healthier.