Health Tips Tuesday: importance of mental health awareness

Dr. Barry Sarvet spoke this week on the importance of mental health awareness. (Sponsored by TommyCar Auto Group)
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 11:08 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Dr. Barry Sarvet, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Baystate Health, spoke this week on the importance of mental health awareness.

Why is it so important to raise awareness about mental health?

Sarvet: “Well, David, a lot of people in the community are suffering from mental health conditions. These health conditions are extremely painful and, in some cases, they can lead to tragic outcomes, like suicide. The problem is that a lot of people don’t want to talk about it. It’s really important for the people suffering from mental illness to be seen and to be recognized, that people are suffering in the shadows and often times hiding. People feel embarrassed and ashamed to be having problems, as if a mental health problem is a kind of failing. The message we like to remind everybody is that anyone can have a mental health problem and many do. It effects about 20 percent of the population and that’s probably an underestimate. It’s really important that people be aware of what’s happening with others in their family, the community, their friends. That’s the biggest reason.”

Can poor mental health lead to manifestations of poor physical health as well?

Sarvet: “Absolutely. I’m so glad you asked that question< David, because we go around thinking that the mind is something separate from the body, but the mind is connected to the body. In fact, there are nerve cells that extend to every part of our body and hormonal connections from the brain and other body parts to the brain. It’s all connected. People with mental health problems often have more severe manifestations of chronic illnesses, like heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease. All the diseases that people can get are worsened by mental health. One of the biggest connections between mental health and the body is through sleep because a lot of people with depression, for example, have poor sleep and when you have poor sleep, you feel really rotten. It affects your physical body and it can cause lots of diseases from not being able to have that restorative sleep every single night, but there are lots of other reasons too why people with mental health conditions often don’t feel motivated to take care of their bodies. A lot of people with mental health conditions feel disconnected from their bodies they’re not able to do all the things that we need to do to take care of our bodies.”