I had an editor once who pestered me for using the word feel incorrectly. She insisted that feel should be used to describe a physical action and not to imply an emotion or belief. For example, it was fine to write that someone feels the heat of a fire. It was not OK to write that someone feels a sense of loss after the fire. She told me to find a better word.
I disagreed with her then and still do. The act of feeling is physical and emotional.
Recently, that debate came back to me as it relates to health care. I feel there’s a connection between a person’s physical health and his mental health. Recognizing that goes a long way to improving overall health of many.
Renee Rogers, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Banner Health, said hundreds of studies show evidence that mental health and physical health are influenced by one another.
That might be the reason behind the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force move last month. They recommended that adults 18 and older be screened for depression. This task force is a public health agency that studies health issues and makes recommendations to help shape how medical providers practice medicine.
The task force said depression is a medical illness. It causes a person to have feelings of sadness that do not go away. The person may feel hopeless, have no energy and no longer have interest in things that once were enjoyable. That’s a lot of feelings in the emotional sense.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that one in five American adults has a mental health issue. Mental illness, including depression, increases a person’s risk for suicide. That impacts coworkers, family and friends.
A mental health disorder also hurts a person’s ability to physically cope with a chronic disease. I mentioned earlier that one in five Americans has a mental health disorder. Well, one in two adult Americans has a chronic disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How are they be linked? Depression may cause a person to make unhealthy decisions such as drinking or smoking that does no good for his physical health. In the same way, dealing with a chronic disease like arthritis may cause frustration or lead to anxiety and depression.
“There is also evidence suggesting depression may be linked to the health of our gut,” Rogers said.
Rogers added that in Banner Health, depression screenings are required once a year for all patients 12 and older seeing a primary care physician. If the score on the evaluation is moderate to high, the patient will be referred for services with a behavioral health professional for depression.
My hope is that the recommendation from the Task Force means more people across the country will recognize the link between mental and physical health and pay attention to the needs of both. It’s a wellness plan for mind and body. I feel like it’s a step in the right direction.