Why Mental Health Matters

If you broke your ankle, you wouldn’t hesitate to seek out an orthopedic surgeon. If you had a fever, a visit to your PCP would be in order. Why is it, then, when it comes to mental health, people are sometimes slow to react and even slower to reach out for support?

Mental health is often overlooked as superfluous. People may call you “dramatic” or tell you to “snap out of it.” Decades of stigma surrounding the significance of mental health has deterred people from finding treatments, counseling and support for issues that may not be obvious to the naked eye.

But that mindset is changing for the better, and you can thank millennials for it.

Millennials — the generation born between 1980-1999 — make up nearly 75% of the current workforce, surpassing baby boomers as the largest generation in history. As adults, many millennials are more comfortable talking openly about depression, anxiety and eating disorders. That’s starting to rub off on other generations and become part of larger societal conversations surrounding wellness, including on talk shows and in the news.

“Millennials, in particular millennial women, are no longer afraid of the stigma surrounding their mental health and want it integrated into their overall approach to healthcare,” said Natalie Bencivenga, LSW, MSW and “Ask Natalie” advice columnist. “The questions I receive from readers all over the country mostly center on their mental health as being a priority. They want to be validated in knowing that their experiences with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are normalized and treatable.”

You can’t separate the mind from the body. It’s imperative that healthcare professionals recognize this link between the different facets of our collective humanity and know how to respond with more holistic treatment options that.

“I have learned so much from great brain scholars, such as Dr. Rudy Tanzi from Harvard, who speak of the brain not as a mystical place we can’t possibly reach but as a physical location meant to be understood, studied and treated,” said Dr. Vonda Wright, founder and CEO of Women’s Health Conversations. “Because of this approach, I now think of the brain, mind and even emotion as comparable to a physical organ, like the liver or the knee. We should study it, describe it and treat it openly like any other part of the body, and I’m happy we are reaching this place due to a pivot in mindset across all platforms from social to scholarly.”

Here are five ways you can support your mental health:

    1. Meditation: Focus your attention on one thought, object or activity to train the mind toward awareness. That can help you achieve a mentally clear and calm state of being. Need some help? Try apps such as Headspace or Waking Up to get started.
    2. Yoga or mindful movement: An ancient tradition from India, yoga is a physical experience that awakens the mind and spirit to find a place of rest and relaxation. It’s often used to support meditative practices and increase physical strength and flexibility. It also can help with anxiety, depression and finding a deeper sense of personal peace. Plus, exercise of any kind helps to improve your mood.
    3. Therapy: Once looked at with skepticism by society, therapists and counselors alike are now seen by millennials as another tool in their toolbox to utilize in the quest for a more fulfilling life.
    4. Stay socially engaged: Those who stay connected to friends and loved ones have a higher rate of satisfaction with their personal sense of self. Social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. Find ways to interact that are meaningful, even if it’s just a phone call once a week to a friend.
    5. Eat healthy: Did you know that food can affect your mood? The old saying “you are what you eat” actually rings true. Fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kombucha and yogurt, can boost your mood naturally. You can have that piece of dark chocolate, too. A banana filled with vitamin B6 can help support feel-good neurotransmitters, and berries are rich with antioxidant powers. In fact, a diet high in fiber-filled fruits and vegetables can help stabilize blood sugar and prevent mood swings, among other mental health benefits.

This series on Millennial Women’s Health was created in partnership with Dr. Vonda Wright’s non-profit Women’s Health Conversations. Read more in the series here.

By Dr. Vonda Wright

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