Affirming the Physical and Mental Health Connection

Mental Health America first launched May as Mental Health Month in 1949 to raise public awareness and understanding of mental health. The 2018 theme, #4Mind4Body, emphasizes the relationship between a person’s physical and mental health.

Science continues to reveal how the body’s many systems, including our brains and emotions, influence each other.  We know that not only does exercise help our physical health, it can help prevent mental illnesses and is an important part of treatment. New research is linking diet and mental health, showing that young people with the healthiest diets are about half as likely to have depression. Sleep, in the right amount and quality, is fundamental to a healthy mind and body, and learning how to manage your stress can be a small change with a big positive impact on your physical and mental health.

As science affirms the mind-body connection, judgmental attitudes about mental illness are gradually fading. Widespread acceptance will take years, but from Prince Harry to the guy next door, Bruce Springsteen to the teen online, people are talking about their mental health challenges and the need for greater awareness, acceptance and resources.

Many of the personal tools for maximizing mental health also improve our physical health and are becoming an accepted part of our culture. For example, both Time and Newsweek ran special editions last year on “Mindfulness,” with its benefits to the mental and physical components of our lives.

This is great news for mental health. The more mental health is viewed as part of overall health, the more “normal” it is to be concerned about not feeling well, talk about it, seek help early and work towards recovery.

Bruce Cruser, Executive Director

Mental Health America of Virginia

P.S. It’s important to know the ways exercise, sleep, diet & nutrition, stress, and our body systems’ wellness connects to our mental wellness; mental wellness is a piece of our overall health and wellness.