Being Healthy Includes Having Happy Minds

Remember all those times you’ve heard that a balanced diet and consistent exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle? Or that using condoms during sex reduces a your chance of contracting harmful sexually transmitted diseases? Whether it is choosing a salad over a Big Mac or deciding to quit smoking, healthy choices impact the way everyone lives.
Yet even with so many options on how to be healthy, it is often easy to forget about the importance of balancing a fit body with an equally healthy mind.
A common problem among present-day college students is that we tend to disregard taking care of what is not imminently ahead us. If we have the flu, then we’ll go to a doctor. If we are overweight, then we’ll head to the gym.
However, unlike a typical sickness, mental illness is an intangible enemy that usually cannot be measured directly, and symptoms often appear through gradual lapses of time. What can be worse is that those who suffer from mental illnesses are usually the last to recognize it, and with so much chaos in the world, who really has the time to stop and notice?
The Student Organization for Mental Health Awareness is a student group on campus that educating the public on supporting mental health issues and raising awareness for opportunities to seek help. The group not only provides support but invites various guest speakers within the fields of mental health to speak about current events and future innovative technologies that are being tested today.
Last Tuesday’s featured guest speaker was the distinguished Director of UC Irvine Medical Center’s Inpatient Clinical Services at the UCI Neuropsychiatric Center, Rimal Bera. As the former president of the board of directors of the Mental Health Association of Orange County, Bera is a major player in the development of mental health research.
The first topic addressed by Bera was the dangers of an unhealthy mind and the urgency of public recognition. He argued that part of the reason social stigmas are attached to psychological or psychiatric help is public ignorance and arrogance.
Many people brush off depression as a common emotional problem and though this may seem outwardly true, studies have found that variations among brain wave images between depressed subjects suggest a deeper cause.
‘Everyone goes through stresses, but the key here is when it doesn’t allow you to function on a normal basis and that then becomes a mental illness,’ Bera said.
Current practical diagnosis for depressed patients consists of personal interviews or is based on a constructed list of psychological symptoms called the Diagnostic Criteria of Mental Disorders (IV)
However, according to Bera, mental illnesses are mostly recognizable by incapability of performing routine tasks and by abnormal behavioral changes towards others. Examples of behavioral deviations ranged from hallucinations to drug abuse to paranoia. In other words, though we are often directed by how we feel, our feelings should be a guide to help us function better, not worse.
Bera also suggested seeking help from friends and family before deciding to pursue pharmaceutical aid. Counseling and therapy should be considered before heading to pills. In fact, he believes that medication should only be a secondary treatment when therapy and counseling fails.
On the subject of clinical drugs like anti-depressants, Bera optimistically believes that they are beneficial. He remarked on how well anti-depressants can revive a patient back to their pre-depressed state, but he cautions to those who take over-the-counter drugs to focus on their recovery as much as on the outcomes of the product.
Bera suggested seeking information on your own. ‘The person needs to be empowered by knowledge,’ Bera said.
In cases where individuals feel overwhelmed by their emotions, medical knowledge or talking to a clinical practitioner may be the best way to determine the source of the problem.
Bera ended the short seminar with an optimistic outlook of the future of clinical psychiatry. He believes that the field is growing because of current improvements for treatments, decreasing of social stigma as people begin taking a more serious attitude toward mental illnesses, more academic recognition and an increase in mental help facilities.
Bera’s ending comment emphasized that as important as our physical bodies are to us, we should pay equal attention to our internal well-being.