In an increasingly globalized and mediatized world where mental illness is one of the most talked about cultural artifacts in society, Colleen Patrick Goudreau said: “If we don’t have time to get sick, we need to take time to be healthy to be.” .
With the prevalence of mental health problems, it’s clear why. Mental health problems are a major contributor to the general burden of disease worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. One study reported that mental health is the leading cause of disability worldwide, causing disability for over 40 million years in 20 to 29 year olds.
Compared to previous generations, mental illness is said to outweigh the effects of black death. The main causes of, and the cost of, the unprecedented increase in the number of people directly affected by mental illness can be viewed on at least three levels of analysis.
When we don’t have time to be sick, we need to take time to be healthy.
Colleen Patrick Goudreau
At the first level of analysis, the main cause of mental illness is an amalgamation of heredity, biology, environmental stressors, and psychological trauma.
Concepts of specific genes responsible for disease have been replaced with ideas of genetic complexity, where different genes work together with non-genetic factors to affect mental illness. That is, health-related biology and mental health influence each other in a complex interplay that is inherently social.
Despite the importance of understanding the social basis of biological risk factors for mental illness, there is a relative lack of research into this topic. Research that does exist is compelling nonetheless. For example, one of many studies found that social isolation leads to an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Because low levels of social integration are related to higher levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation associated with coronary heart disease, social integration is viewed as a biological relationship between social isolation and coronary heart disease.
In addition, social support influences physical awareness. In a landmark study, researchers showed that people who were accompanied by a supportive friend or envisioned a supportive friend rate a hill as less steep than people who were alone.
Mental health, like physical health, is more than the sum of its functioning or faulty parts.
On the second level of analysis, the complex bio-social interplay of mental illnesses points to the fundamental chemical foundations of human thought and human feeling.
With recent advances in neuroscience like Clarity, we can now make the brain optically transparent without having to cut or reconstruct it to examine the neural networks, subcellular structures, and more. In short, we can study mental illness from a biological point of view.
However, the depth and complexity of the bio-social roots of mental illness give a more nuanced picture than discussed so far. In such pioneering work, it is increasingly believed that the brain is the most important plane for analyzing human behavior.
In this sense, mental illness continues because people often view it as biological. A “trait-like” view of mental illness, in turn, creates a status quo of the mental health stigma by reducing empathy. Such explanations overemphasize constant factors such as biology and underemphasize modulating factors such as the environment.
At the third level of analysis, the obsession with looking at mental health in relation to mental illness reveals the fallible assumption that mental health is simply the absence of a mental disorder. The problematic mental health landscape, however, relies on much broader working assumptions. That is, mental health, like physical health, is more than the sum of its functioning or defective parts. It is a general wellbeing to be considered given the unique differences between physical health, cognition, and emotions that can be lost in an entirely global assessment.
Why do we as a society think about solving mental illnesses that should have been addressed long ago far more than we think about improving mental health? In part because when we think of mental health we think of increasing a population’s mean positive mental health, more than closing the implementation gap between prevention, promotion, and treatment.
Cumulatively, social environments are the lubricating oil for biological predispositions that affect mental health, so mental health and physical health should be viewed holistically. With this in mind, national mental health policy should not only address mental disorders, which are detrimental to the promotion of mental health.
It pays to think about how to address mental health problems with proactive behavior programs. To achieve this, it is crucial to involve all relevant government sectors such as education, labor, justice and welfare.
In a large number of existing actors, the efforts of many non-profit organizations, educational institutions and research groups are contributing to the landscape of solutions for promoting mental health. In Ireland, for example, schools offer mental health activities such as breathing exercises and anger management programs. Nonprofits around the world are increasingly recognizing the value of community development and capacity building programs (empowering communities to overcome the causes of their isolation). In addition, companies integrate stress management into their office culture.
We think of increasing the average positive mental health of a population rather than closing the implementation gap between prevention, promotion and treatment.
The quest to empower people to help themselves joins these social endeavors to teach us that mental health advancement is optimized when it is preventive before mental illness occurs and when provided with practical skills within one Community are connected. Additionally, these social endeavors illustrate how different types of endeavors (government, nonprofits, corporations, etc.) serve different populations, from children to businesses.
While these social ventures bring hope into the future and underscore the importance of sustainable change, there are still too few programs that effectively target people who want to maximize the positive mental health they already have in order to not just solve or solve mental health problems to manage something. If we continue to take so much pride in our successful mental illness problem finding and resolution that we ignore mental illness prevention and mental health advancement, we run the risk of exacerbating the problem we are trying to solve.
Heffner, K., Waring, M., Roberts, M., Eaton, C. & Gramling, R. (2011). Social isolation, C-reactive protein, and mortality from coronary artery disease in shared adults. Social Science & Medicine, 72 (9), 1482-13; 1488. doi: 10.1016 / j.socscimed.2011.03.016
R. Lozano, M. Naghavi, K. Foreman, S. Lim, K. Shibuya & V. Aboyans et al. (2012). Global and Regional Mortality from 235 Causes of Death for 20 Age Groups in 1990 and 2010: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. The Lancet, 380 (9859), 2095-2128. doi: 10.1016 / s0140-6736 (12) 61728-0
Schnall, S., Harber, K., Stefanucci, J. & Proffitt, D. (2008). Social support and the perception of geographic inclination. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44 (5), 1246-1255. doi: 10.1016 / j.jesp.2008.04.011
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