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Mental Health is Really Just Health

On average, our daily brain function accounts for around 20 percent of the calories we burn. On a 2000 calorie diet, that’s 400 calories! Have you ever tried to burn that many calories on an elliptical machine? Let me tell you, it takes more than a little effort. (And yes, in case you were wondering, our brains do burn more calories when we’re thinking harder. That’s why they call it exercising our minds.)

Furthermore, our eyes, which are directly involved in at least 80 percent of the things we do, are classified as a part of our nervous system. So, in other words, our eyes – again, integral in most things we do – are the most direct link between the outside world and our brains.

Our brains are responsible for our breathing, circulation and heartbeat, digestion, movement, and virtually every other vital process our bodies undergo. These little lumps of grey and white matter are amazing. And they’re surprisingly resilient for something so astoundingly similar in texture to Jell-O™.

The power of the human mind to build and innovate is virtually limitless. (Credit: pexels.com)

But guys, set all that aside and think for just a second about our minds. Obviously, they’re housed in our squishy, 3-pound brains. But look at what we can do with them. We’ve gone from lighting the first lightbulb to holding unlimited access to videos, books, games, communication, and information in the palms of our hands, all in the course of about 100 years. We made it to the moon, for goodness’ sake, using some fancy math and a computer no more powerful than that ’90s Nokia we all played Snake on way back when.

We can communicate in countless languages and mediums, not the least of which being body language or music. We can learn to interpret complex signals and emotions from other humans, and have decoded some of the ways other animals communicate, too. We can create breathtaking works of art and write heart-wrenching literature and compose gorgeous symphonies.

Even though our universe is infinitely large, there are few forces in it greater than the human mind.

Why, then, do problems with mental health have any stigma at all?

Yes, we put our bodies through the wringer all the time, but we don’t even think about the ridiculous extent to which we tax our minds on a daily basis. Stress is always mental. Trauma always affects the mind. Yes, anxiety and depression are in our heads – but then, so are the centers that control our physiological responses to life, the universe, and everything. And, more often than not, it is simply impossible to experience an issue with one without it having a profound impact on the health of the other.

If some normal people are predisposed to developing problems with their knees, why couldn’t another normal someone develop problems with their mind? Why is the former inconvenient or unfortunate to the rest of us, while the latter makes us think the afflicted person is weird, sad, or even scary?

They’re just people! People like you and me, who need love and support.

17.9 percent of U.S. adults suffer from mental illness, and the number seems to be rising. (Credit: nimh.nih.gov)

Most individuals with depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, and countless other mental illnesses lead normal lives. In fact, we are surrounded by them; the National Institute of Mental Health reported in 2015 that about 17.9 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness. With a nearly 1-in-5 statistic like that, chances are either you or someone in your immediate family is on the list.

And while these people lead normal lives on the outside, on the inside they’re often suffering. They’re wondering why they feel so down when life appears so great. They’re wondering why the drive to work terrifies them beyond belief even though it’s only traffic. They’re on edge when they are in an environment full of loud noises because they know eventually one will trigger their PTSD again. They feel broken and like they’re worth less than everyone else because those amazing minds they have don’t seem to be running at full capacity.

But something that they and all of us need to understand is that disabilities accompany superpowers. After all, if Isaac Newton (bipolar disorder), Abraham Lincoln (depression), Elton John (bulimia), Michael Phelps (ADHD), and Robin Williams (depression) were able to excel so profoundly in what they did, why couldn’t anybody else excel as well? Heck, even Superman was allergic to rocks. My point is, we should all keep pulling together. Or, as the Quakers put it, “Thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together.”

In conclusion, mental illness is just illness. Mental health is just health. Those who live with it aren’t crazy people; they’re just people. We all need help from time to time, whether it be with a broken leg, a broken heart, or a broken mind. And especially in the realm of mental illness, a little compassion goes a long way.

 

Daniel Moster is an office/IT intern at Noetic Psychiatry, who also occasionally moonlights as a writer, mandolin player, and student of Family Life at Brigham Young University. In his free time, he enjoys collecting hobbies, eating sugary foods, and spending time with his beautiful wife.

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