By George Hulse, Vice President of External Affairs, Healthfirst
Mental health has been a big topic of national discussion lately—unfortunately, much of it from newspaper articles exploring the minds of the suspects of the Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., tragedies. The positive side of all this media coverage is that it has shed light on the importance of removing the stigma from mental healthcare and proving it is just as important as physical health to overall wellbeing.
This month is “Mental Health Month,” which Mental Health America, a mental health advocacy organization, has been celebrating since 1949 to raise awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all.
Today, healthcare experts are creating a more rounded view of health and well-being. Physicians not only take the physical body into account, but also the mind, to paint a more complete picture of personal wellness.
Mental health conditions should be treated with as much importance as physical problems. Just like an individual would visit a physician if they had the flu or a broken bone, the same should go for seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist if they have a mental health condition like depression or anxiety.
Another important factor for individuals living with a mental health condition is that these conditions can make the chronic diseases they may already have worse. Suffering from a mental health condition can make it harder to get better from and follow through on proper treatments for chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and others.
The good news here is there are helpful resources readily available for those individuals living with a mental health condition. First, individuals can partner with their physician for referrals for mental health professionals who can help. There are also support groups and online communities to help support those people living with a mental health diagnosis.
If you are interested in more information on depression or anxiety, listen to this podcast with Dr. Ian Shaffer, Healthfirst’s Vice President and Medical Director of Behavioral Health, at www.healthfirst.org/live-healthy/live-healthy-podcast/ In this discussion, Dr. Shaffer gives important information and methods to help manage these conditions. Bottom line: treating a mental health condition is just as important as treating a physical issue.

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