Relationship between mental illness and physical health
Kym Friese’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.
February we began to debunk mental health which I’d like to continue through further dissecting mental illness to further explore the relationship between our mental and physical health.
Let’s start with ‘Mental Illness’, which is a term referring to a diverse group of mental health conditions varying in severity, lasting anywhere from a couple of weeks, years or the duration of lifespan. Each individual will be subject to experiencing differing symptoms but overall mental illnesses alter your thoughts, behaviour, interactions, ability to function and moods. Some examples include Depression, Eating Disorders, Trauma, Anxiety, Bi-polar & Substance Use Disorders.
Health Direct estimates as many as “1 in every 5 Australians — about 4 million people — suffers from a mental illness in a given year, and almost half the population has suffered a mental disorder at some time in their life. Most common mental disorders are depression, anxiety and substance use disorders.”
Alarmingly, Health Direct highlights that “although mental illness is treatable, about two thirds of people with mental illness do not seek treatment”.
This means it’s likely most of us will either endure or be exposed to someone suffering mental health concerns at some point throughout our lives. As such it’s important to recognise a mental health concern becomes a mental illness when the ongoing signs and symptoms you are experiencing begin to generate recurrent stressors which begin to impede your ability to function day to day or on a regular basis.
Common signs and symptoms to look out for include but are not limited to:
- Confused thought patterns and limited concentration
- Fluctuations in mood
- Withdrawing from social contact or activities you would normally enjoy
- Limited motivation
- Inability to cope with daily stressors
- Increased alcohol intake or drug use (self-medicating or recreational drugs).
Other signs to be mindful of are physical health concerns, remembering our physical and mental health go hand in hand. Physical symptoms may consist of but are not limited to migraines, upset stomach or dizziness. For example, I know for myself at peak stress periods I often experience headaches and an upset stomach which settle as my stress levels reduce.
Positively, mental illness can be effectively treated, so I can’t emphasise enough the importance of taking ownership to initiate early intervention through your GP as the sooner you commence treatment, the more positive the outcome!
What does effective treatment look like? It varies for us all and may require a singular solution such as medication or a combination such as medication, psychological therapies or engaging in psycho-social support groups and your GP will be able to direct you toward the most appropriate treatment suited to your individual needs.
Lastly, in order for us to destigmatise mental illness and encourage more of us to seek help, we must ensure we recognise the link between physical and mental health. Whilst doing so, we must provide the same supports and understanding we would provide to physical illness to alleviate shame those with mental health concerns often experience, leaving them feeling marginalised and isolated.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:
- Lifeline – 13 11 14, lifeline.org.au
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636, beyondblue.org.au/forums
- MensLine – 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet – healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
By Kym Friese
Kym Friese is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.
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