Every time the term 'mental health' is said, one gigantic dark cloud starts to emerge in most people’s minds. The term conjures up negative connotations, thoughts of crazy people (i.e. people who are mentally ill or mentally insane), almost like a gag reflex or a jerk reaction to the sound of those two words said together; and literally, everyone freezes start to look down, and eventually move away from the conversation.
Here’s the truth. Mental health is exactly what it is. Mental health is about mental health; the health and condition of one’s mind. To be more specific, “mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life,” (www.mentalhealth.gov) but, I think even this is a limited definition as to what’s truly relevant when addressing the topic of mental health. I believe mental health should encompass the health of one’s brain too. The brain is the vehicle which creates the condition, the capacity, and the operations possible for mental health. The brain is the source of every person’s emotional, psychological, social, physical, and physiological health. Humans are nothing without the brain, so even more than physical health, mental health should be everyone’s priority.
"Humans are nothing without the brain, so even more than physical health, mental health should be everyone’s priority."
Let’s for a moment briefly define the brain and define the mind. The brain is an organ of collective nerve tissues which sits in the skull, while the mind is the intellect and consciousness of a person. In my opinion, when discussing the considerations pertaining to mental health, both the brain and the mind are necessary to include because a brain without a mind is not fulfilling its true capacity and a mind without a brain is impossible.
Think about it, without a brain I will be left lifeless, how will the heart know to continue to pump blood? How will I know how to contract and expand my lungs? I will not know how to operate my body. I will be absent from my operational capacity to live. Without a mind I won’t be able to know who I am, I won’t have a sense of identity, I wouldn’t know what identity even is, nor would I even know that I exist. The perspective each individual has of the world and of one’s own existence all exists in the mind. If I am absent of mind, then I will be absent of realizing I have a life to live for.
Let’s use the simple example of exercise and how when I exercise I can cause my brain to produce endorphins. Endorphins are what’s commonly known as ‘happy hormones’ and an increase in endorphins will also cause a feeling of elation and happiness. Think about this more clearly, the brain is secreting hormones that impact my mood. It’s not hard to see why I find the brain and the mind as a necessary pair in the consideration of mental health. Further, why I find mental health as a very important topic to be considered and talked about by everyone at every stage of life.
The breadth of responsibility the brain and the mind touch on in regards to human life is so substantial that it’s a surprise that it’s taken us this long to highlight mental health as an important matter to be considered by the masses. The biggest astonishment of all, of course, is the fact that the topic of mental health is still stigmatized. The positive move now is that more and more people are awakening to the realities of how important both the mind and the brain is, not just to enhance performance or to live optimally, but also in regards to the general health of the brain and mind; especially with the new research available through the advances in neuroscience (The Real Power of The Mind and The Role of Change in Neuroplasticity & in Lifestyle). Though I would argue that despite the significance the brain and the mind play in human life, the majority of people and the collective attention towards mental health in the world today is still tremendously far from ideal. In 2018, we are still bounded by the taboos surrounding the topic, the social stigmatization, and repelled by the sense of embarrassment and rejection to address the issue. We are only just starting to wake up to the realities, but we’re far from an appropriate, accurate and critical consideration of the matter, especially in terms of the masses.
Everything about being human all stems from the brain and the operation of the mind so the term ‘mental health’ shouldn’t bring up negative reactions, rather it should be an area of attention and action. Mental health addresses the questions and the topics which pertain to the health of the body’s arguably most important organ - the brain!
This will be a topic I will touch on a lot throughout, because further than just my unrelenting fascination with the brain and the mind, I find that the health of both of these are fundamental considerations to the existence and purpose of us as a species.