Donald D. Matthews, PsyD

Sep 9, 2021

3 min read

The Promise of a #healthymind

I had a conversation with a physician about a year ago when COVID began to explode in my community. He said, “When our physical health is compromised, our mental wellness is also impacted.” Most people will agree that a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. We see that COVID19 (SarsCOV2 virus) can cause ongoing medical issues, with long-term symptoms and potentially debilitating health outcomes. Along with the physical illness COVID can also impact mental wellness.

The response to the COVID19 (SarsCOV2 virus) pandemic has improved tremendously in 2021 with new treatments like monoclonal antibodies and several highly effective vaccines. There is no question that the scientific and medical response to COVID19 has focused on the therapeutic interventions (drug therapies and vaccines), the rapid production and distribution of vaccines and public health measures for protecting the physical health of the population. But how are we responding to impact that COVID19 is having on our mental well being?

I am being careful not to use the words “mental health.” As our current system defines it, mental health is about medical and psychological conditions that are diagnosed based upon the DSM-V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, fifth edition). Treatments for mental conditions are linked to various medical interventions like talk therapies and pharmaceuticals. With limited access to these types of interventions, many individuals with mental and emotional challenges don’t receive any support or services to improve mental wellness. I should also point out that the efficacy or success of some therapies is not always sufficient to result in meaningful or continuous improvements in mental wellness for many individuals who experience greater societal challenges resulting in unemployment, food insecurity, housing insecurity, racism, discrimination, trauma, PTSD, and addictions that exacerbate their mental health challenges. The healthcare system itself makes individuals dependent upon a medical model for addressing mental wellness that often results in poor outcomes.

The evidence is growing, both through casual observations and scientific data and research, that as a society we are experiencing a tremendous decline in our mental wellness. While there are probably many causes for this decline, the most obvious stressor is the complexity of the society that we live in. Our world is moving too fast and is aided by our rampant consumption and perhaps over-consumption of information. We spend far too little time being still and reflecting on our own mental wellness. Our societal view of wellness or well being does not focus on the whole individual, but only the mental symptoms of the individual when they experience distress or what we label as “mental illness”. Poor mental wellness is visible in the suffering we see in families, in our communities, and on the faces of the children we love and strive to protect.

Our mental wellness has also been compromised and we need a new mindset, one that promotes a #healthymind. So what is the solution to poor mental well being during a pandemic that continues to grow and expand, impacting not just our own physical and mental wellness, but the wellness of our communities? Let’s begin the conversation on Twitter. Leave your response to the question at #healthymind @MindfulBreathi1.