Mental Health Awareness Month

We have observed Mental Health Awareness Month in May in the United States since 1949. It provides us with time to address our needs, and those around us we love and care about, on mental health and fitness.

10 Components of Health

The definition of health, as specified by the World Health Organization (WHO), is a state of physical, mental and social well-being.

As I digested these three elements, I saw how they fit together to enhance our lives. I have written and discussed the components of the Power of 5 and how they contribute to physical health. In my first book, “I’ve Got Some Good News and Some Bad News: YOU’RE OLD” I shared my observations about how the patients who age the most successfully incorporated the elements of my acronym of GRACE (Goals, Roots, Attitude, Companionship, and Environment) into their lives. These 10 physical, mental and social components woven together lead to healthy, purposeful lives.

The five elements I present in each book provide a roadmap to physical, mental and social health and as I often state each individual has to do some heavy lifting to live long, healthy, and GRACEful lives. 

Studies Show …

Insurers and our government healthcare systems are finally awakening to the mental and behavioral health crisis in the US and are addressing mental health needs in our society.

There has been a reckoning that behavioral health conditions are highly prevalent at all ages in the United States. As reported in The Commonwealth Fund Explainer (Sept 7, 2022) and according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 21 percent of U.S. adults had a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia
  • 17 percent of youth had a major depressive episode
  • 11 percent of adults and 3 percent of youth had alcohol use disorder
  • 7 percent of adults and 5 percent of youth had an illicit-drug-use disorder
  • close to 6 percent experienced “serious interference with major life activities,” also referred to as serious mental illness
  • In 2022, the opioid crisis resulted in the deaths of approximately 107,000 Americans. Opioid use disorder is an overlap condition of behavioral and physical illness that has raged out of control and eluded the American health care system.

Health Connections

Behavioral health is deeply connected to physical health outcomes, as well as to social and economic well-being. People with behavioral health conditions are at greater risk of developing chronic diseases (Depression and Multimorbidity: Considering Temporal Characteristics of the Associations Between Depression and Multiple Chronic Diseases – PMC) such as heart disease or diabetes and more likely to have unstable employment, insecure housing, or involvement with the criminal justice system (Social determinants of mental disorders and the Sustainable Development Goals: a systematic review of reviews).

As we acknowledge mental health awareness month, we can all hope that major changes will lead to a culture that embraces the care we all deserve and need to support our behavioral health. 

The Power of 5 with GRACE

There is clear evidence that incorporating the elements of the Power of 5 will reduce our risk and improve our current mental fitness.

  • Healthy eating lifestyle: I recommend a Mediterranean or plant-based diet.
  • Physically active: Exercise is the best antidepressant ever evaluated; attempt to achieve 150-450 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Avoiding and addressing Stress as it is a significant contributor to emotional wellbeing.
  • Getting 7-8 hours of Sleep each night, because our brains are dependent on sleep for optimal performance.
  • Incorporating social activities into our daily lives: Socialization and companionship are essential ingredients in my formula and in the WHO description of health to achieve physical, mental and social well-being.

The elements of GRACE are worth adopting as they provide the social and spiritual elements that can contribute to mental fitness. That is our own personal heavy lifting. 

  • Goals: Develop a purpose for living and share it with others.
  • Roots: Know your DNA or genes and deal with them accordingly to avoid chronic illnesses.
  • Attitude: Incorporate gratitude, kindness and adventure into your daily life.
  • Companionship: Pursue a life with companionship and socialization; avoid loneliness.
  • Interact favorably with your Environment: live in a healthy area, spend time with nature, and get some sunlight and fresh air.

Last, we can hope that the proposed changes and support for the mental wellbeing for everyone will catch up to the needs of society and lead to what the WHO considers Good Health.

Today is always the day to get started.

Pick a single component and intentionally add it to your daily routine and keep it up every day. Over time, add additional elements of GRACE or the Power of 5 formula to enhance your physical, mental and social fitness.

To a long and healthy life,

David Bernstein, MD

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