Lack of Mental and Health Hygiene – Anne Rollins CSSD MS RD LDN

Somewhere between my age and an evolving global pandemic, I find myself consistently shown friends, family, clients and strangers that are struggling with consequences related to the lack of mental and health hygiene.  Some of these people even succumb to theses consequences.  Today I wondered, why do we not list Lack of Mental Hygiene on a Death Certificate? 

With the invention of pharmaceuticals, lives are saved.  We can alter blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and even small proteins that can halt progression of cancers and auto-immune diseases.  That’s amazing.  Conversely, we are allowed to continue on with less than ideal mental or health hygiene practices without our body’s acknowledgement…at least right away.  Pharmaceuticals save lives, but can be in many cases, band aids.  These wonder drugs allow us to remain “healthy enough” without healthy habits, and ultimately develop side effects that may lay ground for another disease requiring treatment and/or pharmaceutical.

I completely understand that having a 15 minute interaction/health intervention with someone in the hospital who may have just had a cardiac procedure brought on by poor nutrition and lack of physical activity will not work nearly as effectively as a cholesterol lowering agent, if at all.  So, in the best interest of the patient, you choose the pharma.  Statistically, this will be a more successful outcome than teaching healthy habits. 

What about if we look at the lives of people who have made changes and live a healthy lifestyle.  There are no negative side effects, and life expectancy increases.  As this takes more effort, hard work, sacrifices and in some cases, facing down demons, not many choose this path.  I can’t cite a number, but not many Western medical practitioners reinforce or provide support for this journey.  There simply isn’t enough time, and the risk is too high.  So, instead of putting in the effort, changing industries, educating people at young ages about the importance of nutrition, physical activity and mental and emotional stress management, we prescribe.  People die of complications related to end stage liver disease because we didn’t have enough supports and education around chronic alcohol consumption as a coping mechanism.  People also die of complications related to diabetes because we allow processed foods and manufactured products laden with addictive sugar to inundate our country.  There are sugary snacks at most every game, practice, school fundraiser, car ride, break room, office, home, street corner….everywhere.  I can’t find anyone dying from complications of breathing exercises or meditation.  Daily wine consumption is currently accepted as something you do when you are a 40-year old mother, per social media – which is a whole other set of health concerns. 

The Magic Bullet

Here’s the magic bullet.  Stop using band aids as tourniquets.  The magic bullet is how you live each day.  How you connect with your self, your body and your mind.  How you nourish or poison each.  The message here should be louder for medical professionals who have given up trying to use less chemical methods of intervention.  Go pharma, when I have an infection and need antibiotics, or cancer that needs to be eliminated before it eliminates me.  But, should there be a less invasive way to create a healthy population, we at least owe it to ourselves, our patients, clients, neighbors, and country to provide a less toxic and healthier solution than “Take this pill.” 

Educating people to live a healthier lifestyle saves lives.  My heart opens and breaks for the number of people I see, hear, know and speak with who are struggling with alcohol or other addiction, and increasingly because decision makers in the medical profession haven’t presented a strong enough case for mental and health hygiene or for alternate ways to deal with stress than to drink or take drugs to cope.  The onus must lay in our health care system to provide people an organic solution that allows them to be the best version of themselves. If the programs don’t exist, then let’s create some.

This is not idyllic or a soapbox presentation, but a call to action.  Ask for non-pharmaceutical interventions first, and don’t deny yourself a pharmaceutical that can, in fact, save your life.  The public can’t choose the best option if it’s never presented. 

Spread the word!  Ask your health care professionals to provide support and guidance, to find health organizations to help you live a healthier version of your life.  Be an advocate for yourself.  Maybe you can manage your health without pharmaceuticals, and maybe you cannot.  Maybe you lessen your dose with a little lifestyle change, and maybe once you get one healthy lifestyle change in place, you’ll find more energy to apply to the second change.  Maybe that leads to a whole bunch of healthy changes. Maybe you work for 10 years to get off of pharma that was your crutch, instead of declining for 10 years and wind up with Lack of Mental and Health Hygiene on your Death Certificate.

Reach out for help, and advocate for those around you who may not be able to advocate for themselves.

National Alliance for Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/Home

Alcoholics Anonymous https://aa.org

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/crisis-knocks/201003/mindfulness-based-stress-reduction-what-it-is-how-it-helps

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