Last month I pondered on a question… I pondered on this question for awhile. I read a wide range of articles and blogs, even glanced at a few scientific-journals. None of which provided a clear precise answer to my question posted last month: Why does mental health seem so secondary to physical health?
So, today, you get an opinion….my opinion.
In my opinion, I think mental health is secondary to physical health for three reasons:
- Crappy History
- Psychology is Fairly New
- Mental Health Stigma
A Little Healthcare History
During the 1800’s, the United States had a poor healthcare system. Practicing physicians were not licensed, very few were actually formally educated, hospitals were filthy, and medications were nothing more than a dangerous concoction of narcotics and bathroom cleaner. In fact, dentistry at that time was a little more evolved than the general medical practice. If you think about it, you gotta have teeth to eat, right? Anyways, it wasn’t until the early 1900’s, surgeons realized the crazy notion that sterile surgical equipment and better hygiene practices, resulted in better health outcomes for their patients; basically, their patients lived longer. That was the spark that ignited modern healthcare practices today. Amazing what washing your hands can do! Unfortunately, mental healthcare was moving along on its own path…an extremely rough slow path.
What To Do With The Mentally Ill
A little less than 200 years ago, the mentally ill were sent to cruel, immoral asylums where they were locked away and forgotten. Living conditions were extremely unsanitary and patients were often abused and chained to the wall. These immoral conditions didn’t begin to improve until the 1830’s and even then, nobody knew what to do with the mentally ill.
When the general-care hospitals were evolving into cleaner facilities and better practices, the immoral asylum practices of isolation and mistreatment of mentally ill patients was eventually deemed unacceptable by society, forcing asylums to improve living conditions and attempt to actually treat the mentally ill; unfortunately, the treatments provided were not scientific. The behaviors expressed by the mentally ill were largely misunderstood and often considered something evil and unnatural; instead of sick or different. People often fear what they do not understand.
Although mental health was a growing concern, there was still very little known about the human mind. Wilhelm Wundt, the father of psychology, was the first to crack open the mental barrier of the human brain; however, it wouldn’t be for another 50 years before Sigmund Freud developed actual scientific-based treatments for mental health conditions.
Medications to effectively manage mental-health conditions were developed in the mid-1900’s; however, many of them were pretty much bad for ones overall physical health despite their effectiveness on mental health. During this time, many long-term mental health patients were being deinstitutionalized and forced back into the communities as a moral way to deal with the mentally-ill. Unfortunately, many still required long-term treatment and care. It was as if society had good intentions, but still no official game plan to treat the mentally-ill.
Slowly, but surely, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, and mental health hospitals were eventually established to effectively treat and morally care for the mentally-ill; however, mental health is still not recognized as importantly as a ticking heart, breathing lungs, and pumping liver.
Recognizing The Connection Between Mind, Body, & Soul
Many different cultures around the world largely accept the important connection between the mind, body, and soul; however, interestingly, such an important concept is not widely practiced in modern day medicine.
When I go for my annual health physical, the only assessment done on my mental health is a 10 question survey asking if I “think” I am depressed. General physicians do not seem concerned about how depression may affect mood, personal choices (addictions), or that a slight chemical imbalance causing depression might be part of an underlying health disease or illness; instead, their 10 question survey focuses more on suicide prevention.
I found an interesting article last night about mental health history that mentioned the mentally-ill often suffered from underlying diseases rather than true mental health disorders. A common example is neurosyphilis, in which is a psychotic disorder developed from untreated syphilis.
Today, it is recognized that both mental health practitioners and general health practitioners have to work together to provide quality care to patients with certain mental-health disorders; but I can only imagine this to be a lengthy and expensive process to uncover and treat underlying diseases affecting mental health. But, before any amount of diagnosing can begin, patients have to feel comfortable enough to seek help in the first place without the fear of being locked up in a padded cell.
Mental Health Stigma
Looking at history, I feel as if the study of psychology is a fairly new science. From what I gather, society, has just recently (say, last 60 years) begun to really recognize mental-illnesses as health related issues instead of mystifying evil. Thinking about it, 60 years is not a long time, nor is 200 years since society used to cruelly isolate and mistreat the mentally-ill. For me, that was only 3 family generations ago, meaning, my grandparents view mental health much differently than I do.
Society probably has mixed views regarding mental health, but those views are nothing compared to the personal views one holds of themself who is struggling to cope with a mental-health disorder. Nobody wants to be labeled as “abnormal,” “different,” “odd,” or even “broken.” Nor does anyone, including a general physican, that does not have a psychology degree want to simply imply one may be slightly “broken,“unless a physical bone is protruding out from under the skin. Personally, I do not even think psychologists and psychiatrists enjoy that part either, despite their fancy degree hanging on their office wall.
My point is, recent negative views on mental health is still lingering and it provides very little encouragement for those in need to seek professional help for mental health disorders. Furthermore, people trust their general-health practitioners, because doctors have been around much longer than psychologists; and if mental health is not part of “general” health concerns, why worry about it?
The Future of Mental Health
I am optimistic, in that I believe after a few generations, mental health will be considered just as important as physical health. Through public awareness, further advancement in neuroscience and general pyschology, as well as, positive encouragement, mental health will no longer be second to the heart, lungs, and liver.
Just An Opinion
As I mentioned earlier, this post is a just my personal opinion. Although I try to formulate opinions based on researched facts, that doesn’t make my opinions right or wrong. In fact, my opinions are nothing more than random thoughts open for polite discussion. Please do not take my opinions personal. You are welcome to disagree, but if you wish to express your disagreement, please do so in a kindly manner for that I personally value and respect different perspectives. Lastly, please keep in mind that my opinions and the opinions of others have feelings too.