Mental health IS health

Psychological trauma produces physical changes in our brain that affect our perceptions and our ability to regulate our emotions.

Untreated depression is a greater risk factor for heart disease than is smoking cigarettes. Quitting ultra processed food (UPF), engaging in physical exercise (anything you enjoy and especially joining a class) and counselling are more effective at treating depression than are current medications. Taking omega-3 supplements (DHA and EPA) and probiotics containing lactobacilli and bifidobacteria have also been found to help a subset of people with depression or anxiety. It follows that eating fermented foods such as plain yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi may also be helpful.

Severe chronic stress and anxiety erode our immune system and increase our susceptibility to infections, autoimmune diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and gut problems — to mention but a few.

Our attitude to ageing affects how we age.

We instinctively know that our mental and physical health are inextricably linked, yet our medical system tends to treat symptoms rather than underlying causes. Unless we start looking at the bigger picture of our lives — at the erosion of meaning, purpose and a sense of belonging and community — we will continue to see an exponential rise in mental and physical illness.

Research has shown that ameliorating depression through psychotherapy lowers both coronary heart disease and stroke as much as adopting a healthy diet. Unfortunately, there are not enough mental health professionals to deal with the avalanche of people suffering from mental health problems. There are several things we can do about this. The first is to recognise that one in five people currently experience symptoms of mental illness in any given year, and this affects every aspect of their lives, especially their ability to relate to others. The first antidote to this is treating each other with compassion and kindness, even when it feels hard to do so. ‘If someone is too tired to give you a smile, leave them one of yours.’ Samson Raphael Hirsch 1808 – 1888

The second thing we can do is to support causes committed to creating a mentally healthier world. One such organisation is the Black Dog Institute.

The Black Dog Institute not only engages in mental health research but translates the findings into education programs, clinical services and public resources to bring about real-world change.

To raise money for the vital work that Black Dog Institute are doing, I will be walking (sweating, heaving, panting) the Kokoda Track from 7th to 15th August. On behalf of everyone whose life has been touched by a mental health problem, I invite you to make a donation to Black Dog Institute by clicking here. Even just a few dollars makes difference. I — and millions of people all over the world — greatly appreciate any support you’re able to give.

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