For the past 65 years May has been National Mental Health Awareness Month, which serves as a time to connect with people and recognize the importance of mental health Of course this dialogue need not be reserved only for May – it’s an ever-present issue and it’s up to all of us to keep these conversations active. On a symbolic level, I find the month of May and springtime in general a good time to think about growth and development, perhaps serving as a reminder to us that recovery is possible.
This year’s National Mental Health Awareness Month theme is, “Mind Your Health.” The notion of the mind-body connection is not new. The early pioneers of the mental health field sought to understand how and why these two seemingly separate entities were so strongly linked. Now more than ever it is clear to us that health and wellness does not just refer to physical health but also to mental health.
I often discuss with patients and their families that no one is exempt from health concerns, be they physical or mental challenges. I stress the value of treating the entire person – not just their neurotransmitters. I speak to them about the incredible power of the human drive to live and succeed and the strength that comes from those interactions with others who are dear to us.
I was able to attend the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting earlier this month and one of the topics of conversation was how we can support our patients in offering treatment of their mental health concerns and at the same time support them in pursuing improved physical health. The two are indeed linked and we are right now in the midst of seeing the integration of physical and mental healthcare come into the spotlight. Please, take advantage of this yourself and think about what you can do to improve your overall health status, including your mental health. And while you’re at it, take some time to reach out and connect with someone you have concerns about. Ask the question “are you OK?” Then, take time to listen to the answer. You’ll be doing that person, and yourself, a huge favor.
Paul Berkowitz, MD, is Centegra’s director of Behavioral Health services. He is board certified in both general psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine and provides inpatient behavioral health clinical consultations for Centegra Health System.