Public health, as described by C.E.A Winslow, is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, communities, and individuals. Today, the public health topics and public health conversations really do acknowledge what Winslow was onto something back in 1920. That is, health cannot be fully attained both at an individual and societal level without an element of prevention.
While prevention depends on societal coordination as well as extensive consultation with doctors and modern science, it is largely dependent on individual effort. Nowhere is this clearer than in the field of mental health, a hugely relevant and often neglected public health topic.
Mental health is gaining popularity as a public health topic as it is an emerging non-communicable disease. Sadly, even as this global epidemic continues to grow, it is largely preventable both in children and adults. Here are some of the most relevant ways to prevent ill mental health:
1. Prevention of accidents
Accidents, particularly road traffic accidents, are a relevant public health topic on their own as they claim hundreds of thousands of lives every year. Also, and more importantly, accidents can be prevented if stringent measures both at an individual and societal level are taken. Accidents result in physical injury as well as the mental disability when the brain is injured. WHO defines an injury as physical damage that results when a human body is suddenly subjected to energy in amounts that exceed the threshold of physiological tolerance, or from a lack of one or more fatal elements (for example, oxygen). Injuries due to accidents can be prevented through measures such as wearing a seat belt and not using a cellphone while driving or operating heavy machinery. Thus, accident prevention is a relevant public health topic when discussing mental health.
2. Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol intake can cause a myriad of problems in the human body, including mental illness. Alcohol is highly addictive and is the leading cause of drug dependency worldwide. In addition, alcoholism brings about a number of social problems. This is because an alcoholic is completely incapable of controlling their own choices. They are imprisoned by the bottle. While most alcoholics are men, the number of female alcoholics is increasing by the day.
While most alcoholics are addicted to hard liquors such as vodka and gin, the rate of addiction to wine is also on the rise. In addition to its benefits to the cardiovascular system, wine is a more socially acceptable alcoholic drink, particularly for women. Thus, it is easy to get addicted to that daily glass of red wine. It is even easier to be in complete denial of the situation. To avoid wrecking your personal and professional relationships as well as your personal productivity due to alcoholism, do a serious audit of your alcohol intake. Use the CAGE questionnaire.
Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?
Ever been annoyed by people criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?
You ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Malnutrition is defined as excessive or inadequate intake of calories and nutrients. This is not merely caused by inadequate resources to buy healthy and adequate food, but also, especially in Western countries, ignorance. The prevalence of anorexia and obesity, both of which are forms of malnutrition, are especially common in the West, particularly in the female population. Lack of vital nutrients can affect cognitive function leading to poor memory, sleep disorders, and anxiety disorders. For instance, vitamin E and vitamin C are powerful antioxidants which scavenge free radicals in the body that are responsible for aging. These vitamins also work in the brain thereby protecting it from harmful oxidation that can lead to brain aging, brain atrophy and all sorts of brain cancers
Pregnancy is a state of physiological stress that can lead to physical as well as mental fatigue. In addition, pregnancy has also been linked to psychiatric disorders which actually require psychiatric treatment. They are postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis. Luckily, both are easy to detect and treat.
Physical and mental health are largely interconnected. Thus, if you are keen on preserving your mental health, take care of your whole body from head to toe. Finally, avoid being in denial about your mental health status. It is incredibly common, unfortunately.