For far too long, physical and mental health concerns have been diagnosed and treated separately. Mental healthcare providers have historically treated patients from the neck up, and other providers – primary care physicians and a range of specialists – have handled health concerns from the neck down.
Today, we know that mental health is inextricably linked to physical health and that treating one without considering the other hinders our ability to fully understand and improve a person’s overall health.
As both a psychiatrist and pediatrician, I know this firsthand. In addition to positively impacting quality and lowering costs, effectively integrating mental and physical healthcare can help create better outcomes for patients and even increase a person’s lifespan.
Alarmingly, statistics show that people with serious mental illness die an average 25 years earlier than people without mental illness. The cause of death among this population is not, as many assume, suicide, a violent act or an accident. Rather, these deaths are primarily attributed to preventable and treatable physical health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, infections, respiratory disease and obesity.
The data showing connections between mental and physical health are staggering. Depression has been linked to a higher incidence of chronic pain and diabetes. Stress has been shown to be a stronger predictor of heart disease than high cholesterol, cigarette smoking or obesity. Diagnosable mental health conditions cause more disability each year than chronic diseases like asthma and arthritis.
According to the American Hospital Association, 68 percent of adults with mental health conditions have a physical medical condition that could benefit from treatment or monitoring, and 29 percent of adults with medical conditions have co-occurring mental health disorders that they may not realize they have.
We must encourage people to consider both their mental health and physical health needs. People need to seek assistance if they are facing depression or anxiety so they can quickly get to the root of the problem and prevent the physical deterioration that will inevitably result. Patients should talk openly with doctors about emotional as well as physical well-being, and, as healthcare providers, we must work to rectify a fragmented healthcare system by collaborating with one another to treat the whole person – from head to toe.
May is Mental Health Month, an annual time to raise awareness of mental health and addiction disorders as well as the effective treatments that are available. It also is an ideal time for us to start a conversation about changing the way healthcare is delivered so mental and physical health will cease to be considered independently of one another. We must come together to protect the health of those who will face a mental or physical illness – or both – this year and provide the resources needed to effectively combat these issues.
Centerstone is among today’s progressive healthcare organizations that are leading the way to better care and improved patient outcomes. Through the comprehensive services offered at our new Dede Wallace Campus outpatient facility and campus and the Frank Luton Center in Nashville, as well as our Madison location on Gallatin Road, we are making it possible for people to easily access both physical and mental health services under one roof. This integrated approach is helping us put people on the fast track to recovery and enable them to achieve sustained better health.
Discover why caring for the mind and body together is the best way to ensure a lifetime of good health.