Within health care, mental illnesses have not been readily accepted as an exclusive field of medicine. Even more so, there are still many speculations about the need to care for or maintain the state of one’s mental or emotional well-being when compared to the importance of seeking immediate treatment for physical indications. Such divergence in viewpoints requires a more thorough understanding of the biological and psychological aspects, not as separate components, but rather as interdependent. According to Vaughn, mental or emotional health refers to an individual’s overall psychological well-being, which includes the way they feel about themselves, the quality of their relationships, and their ability to manage feelings and handle hardships (2014). As for physical health, it can be viewed as the state of an individual’s body to function without limitations or complaints.
Although mental health concentrates on the emotional and behavioral conditions and physical health focuses on the biological causative factors, they share commonality in the sense that issues with mental health can present with many different symptoms, just like issues with physical health; there are mental status exams like there are physical examinations. There are tests that can be done to assess mental health and the same as with physical health (Vaughn, 2014). The main determining factor as to why mental health and illness are often overlooked and disregarded lies in the reality that most people visit a doctor for physical problems and monthly check-ups, but majority of them do not regularly turn to mental health professionals for care until after a crisis has happened. Thus, it is crucial to identify and analyze the underlying reasons for such inconsistency. The lack of recognition for mental illnesses and awareness of one’s mental and emotional health have various contributing factors. There are societal views and ethical concerns that surround the possible causes for the inequality of care and attention given to the psychological health approaches.
Due to the fact that many may view mental health as a rare phenomenon because most of the illnesses encompassing the mind, emotions, and behaviors have not been given the proper acknowledgement as it deserves in modern medicine, it is necessary to trace the origin of mental illness. The early history of mental illnesses dates as far back in time to when ancient Egyptian, Indian, Greek, and Romans writings and cultures categorized mental illness as a well-known supernatural phenomena resulting from demonic possession by the evil spirits or a form of religious punishment (Stanley, 2015). The most commonly believed manner for healing from the illnesses was rooted in religious superstitions. Many practiced precautionary measures like upholding personal hygiene and preserving “purity of the mind and body in order to prevent and protect one from diseases” (2015). Nonetheless, these influential and practical actions were soon put to rest when the Greeks transformed the way that psychological disorders were perceived by its methodology of treatment. When the philosopher and physician, Hippocrates, studied mental illness and discovered in the 5th century B.C. that illnesses come from natural occurrences in the body, he then shifted away from the superstitious beliefs and moved towards the medical aspect of the pathology of the brain and the imbalances in the body that suggestively contribute to varying conditions of mental illness (2015). Hippocrates eventually led the way in treating mentally ill individuals with the focus to alter their surroundings or administer certain substances as medications. Nevertheless, there remained a large proportion of people who still believed in the supernatural causes and utilized alternative treatments despite Hippocrates’ ground breaking findings.
As history moved along, the establishment of mental health hospitals helped to reduce barriers to treatment and care services. Around the 1840s, after witnessing the dangerous and unhealthy conditions in which many mentally ill patients lived, activist Dorothea Dix successfully persuaded the U.S. government to fund the building of 32 state psychiatric hospitals (Unite for Sight, 2015). These state hospitals became an effective care model as it was a considerably useful gateway for patient access to mental health services. Shortly thereafter, more efforts and initiatives were accounted for in working to improve the U.S. mental health care system and policy. In 1909, the founder of Mental Health America (MHA), Clifford Beers, worked to improve the lives of the mentally ill in the United States through research and lobbying efforts (2015). Then in 1946, Harry Truman made his contribution by passing the National Mental Health Act, which created the National Institute of Mental Health and allocating government funds toward research (2015). With the dedication of these early historical roles along with many other reformists after them, it set into action a movement that shaped the transformation of mental health. Yet, much of what is known today regarding mental illnesses has not allow for it to gain popularity among most cultures solely because conversations about mental ailments and patients are subjects to be avoided or cast aside.
Since mental illness is perceived through social perspectives as a disease of the mind, it is only plausible to survey the brain pathology in an attempt to justify the inaccuracy of society’s ways of thinking about mental health. And while it is logical to inspect the mind as being the culprit of mental illness, it is nearly impractical to not challenge the relation that exists between the mind and body. The concept of mind-body connection asserts that the mind and body is not a one-way road, but rather it is a two-way street. In accordance with Sartini-Cprek, “researchers began revisiting the mind-body connection in the late 20th century, and since then, they have compiled an impressive amount of data that indicates our bodies and minds share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with each other” (2017). Further in her article, Sartini-Cprek also provides three approaches in which research demonstrates the connection between the mind and body. These examples include the effect of chronic stress, the placebo effect, and the gut health.
Chronic stress is the first and foremost obvious example. Stress, whether it would be
mentally or emotionally, is often times a necessary reaction when faced with the responsibilities of daily life. And for the most part, our bodies are designed to cope with stress on a minimal level. On the other hand, when the level of stress reaches a state of chronicity, then at this point the body is not well-equipped to response and begins to experience certain consequences like an increase in heart rate, rapid breathing, muscle tension, elevated blood pressure, headaches, stomach aches, sleep problems, chest pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, and a rise in cortisol hormones, which researchers have associated it with serious health issues (Sartini- Cprek, 2017). The placebo effect is another common example. This is a phenomenon of an experimental approach that yields a beneficial effect of improved symptoms after taking a medication that contains no ingredients. Dr. Lissa Rankin, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute and author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, “reported patients in clinical trials who received sugar pills, saline injections or fake surgeries, but believe they might be getting the new wonder drug or miracle surgery, get better 18% to 80% of the time” (2017). Another way of how the mind can affect the body’s ability to function properly is demonstrated in the gut. The study of gut health is an up-and-coming field within medicine where researchers and doctors are finding new connections with the gastrointestinal tract and mental health.