Last week was mental health awareness week and I have been contemplating this subject from a natural perspective. Research suggests there are tens of millions of Americans suffering from a mental illness while only half receive treatment.
Mental illnesses should be taken just as seriously as a physical ailment. In fact, physical, emotional and mental health are all connected. Mental health issues can include depression, PTSD, suicidal tendencies, personality disorders, eating disorders and more.
Some causes of mental illness besides genetics can include trauma from past or present, stress, substance abuse, vitamin and mineral imbalance, diet and gut issues. Our gut is our “second brain” and sends signals communicating with our brain.
Naturopathy is all about getting to the root cause. What good does it do if someone goes to the doctor for migraines, gets put on a medication and yes, their migraines are gone yet they have potential side effects which can do a lot of harm? The medication is simply masking the symptom of something out of line. Why not explore if you need a chiropractor, have an imbalance of hormones or are allergic to MSG in food?
I believe processed foods play a huge role in our state of mental health. Drinks laden with huge amounts of caffeine, foods that appeal to children with artificial colors and flavors that have been shown to cause symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder and processed foods that have a shelf life of forever.
I will never forget while studying reading about two researchers who could make a patient in a mental institution have hallucinations simply by feeding the patient a certain food. More than likely something they were extremely sensitive or allergic to. This is huge for me. Here is an article about gluten and schizophrenia and how they may be related.
Nutrition is finally being recognized as a vital component of mental health as more professionals are learning the importance of diet. Probiotics, Magnesium, Zinc, B Vitamins are just a few nutrients linked with mental health. Joyce Cavaye writes in her article titled, ‘Why Nutritional Psychiatry is the future of mental Health Treatment,’ “The link between poor mental health and nutritional deficiencies has long been recognized by nutritionists working in the complementary health sector. However, psychiatrists are only now becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of using nutritional approaches to mental health, calling for their peers to support and research this new field of treatment.” More on that here.
Besides nutrition, I feel the internet and social media play a role. Online bullying has become a huge problem for students. Families are not spending quality time together. Our social environments are not what they used to be. I have seen very few “villages” available to help guide and raise a baby. Times have changed and sadly, many people are struggling to just survive much less raise emotionally stable individuals. And, the cycle continues.
Where is the human face-to-face connection? I was running errands the other day looking at my list at the health food store, the weight of the world on my shoulders and kids trailing behind me. I happened to look up and a young adult beamed a radiant smile at me from the busy produce section. I just about stumbled; in fact, I think I did. For me, that smile said, “I see you. You can do this.” While I am usually the one passing out smiles as I go about my day, I fully felt the effect of what such a simple gesture can do. Never underestimate what opening the door or smiling at a stranger can do.
While the blame for our mental health crisis can’t be pinned to one problem or event, for anything to change we need to start talking about the issue and become even more aware of our neighbors, family, and friends. This is our community of people. It’s not those people over there on that street or the next town, this is about you and me. We are in this together.
Brooke DeLong, N.D.
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” ~C.S. Lewis