Today the New York Times reported the grim reality of death in America at the hands of what amounts to ignoring mental health. I’ll be 50 this month and had the battery of tests with my doctor when one reaches that milestone. It’s not fun, they poke, they prod, they send you to various rooms for various indignities but it has to be done. As a sober guy, I have to take care of my health as an overarching plan to stay in remission from addictive disease. The prescribed screenings are for a reason and, thankfully, I am in great health. As a side note, where would my health be were I not sober and committed to exercise? Likely not good. Of course they told me I’m too fat. Heavy sigh, a constant struggle but the good news is, they know what they’re doing, they have the knowledge, values, and skills to screen for health issues as we age but there was a blaring omission. As I sat talking to the doctor, apologizing for my teenage diet, nobody ever asked “how are you?”. It’s not a criticism of my doctor or the rest of the staff, it’s an observation about healthcare in America. We forget or maybe we ignore mental and emotional health. What should have happened is the doctor should have said “ok, get dressed and head down the hall, the social worker will meet with you” and they should be screening for depression, anxiety, trauma, substance misuse, all the things that lead people to poor mental health which has a severe impact on physical health. They didn’t. It’s no wonder in an age of isolation, loneliness, shame and stigma, were in such poor mental health and here is the result. America does have an obesity crisis and an opioid crisis, we can read about that daily but we also have a mental health crisis. There are reasons people use drugs and extinguishing drug use is only part of that story. We don’t often hear that we should pay as much attention to our mental health as we do to or physical health but we should. Or maybe we should consider them all part of a comprehensive plan to stay health for as long as we can.
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