Things we discuss – and things we don’t
Imagine that your friend had a total knee replacement. He had surgery and weeks of physical therapy to recover his mobility. Chances are good that many people in your social circle would know that he’d been having problems with his knee and that he had the surgery to correct it. People would ask about it, check in during the rehab and celebrate his return to weekly pickup basketball games.
Now, imagine your friend was battling depression. What would you do to support him – more importantly, would you even know he was struggling?
Mechanics vs. identity
From very young ages, we learn that the body is a machine. It needs rest. It needs fuel. It breaks down sometimes. We see crutches, casts, braces and boots as the body heals, and, for most of us, our sense of self isn’t tied to how well it functions. It affects how we get through our daily lives, but not who we are. The same isn’t true for the brain. Medical issues in the brain can affect all kinds of systems in the body – tactile senses, motor control, thoughts and feelings. That’s why conditions like dementia are so devastating – they distort our sense of who we are and what is real.
Challenge your discomfort
It’s not unusual to be uncomfortable talking about mental health – there are many reasons why people might feel that way. Family and cultural norms may preclude open discussions about it, and there are a lot of harmful misperceptions that permeate the media. Talking about mental illness does not cause mental illness. The opposite is true. The more we talk about it, the more likely people are to get help and successfully cope with their condition. In some cases, talking about it literally saves lives.
Remember the larger purpose
In the context of our closest relationships and in conversations with clinicians, we have to talk as candidly about our mental health challenges as we do about our physical ones. Until we make it as normal and acceptable to have depression as it is to need knee surgery, we can’t really achieve our health goals. To be healthy, to be truly well, our minds, bodies, souls and spirits must be in balance. The truth is that we can’t get there if we’re pretending that a major factor in our overall health doesn’t exist.
Services are provided by ActiveHealth Management, Inc. Our programs, care team and care managers do not provide diagnostic or direct treatment services. We assist you in getting the care you need, and our program is not a substitute for the medical treatment and/or instructions provided by your health care providers.