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The down & dirty on women's wellness
May 24, 2019
Mental health is an odd concept. It is odd to think of mental health as distinct from health in general. However, this is the unfortunate siloed approach that most modern medical practices use to approach any emotional or organic mental concerns. The vast majority of medical providers will address the body and concerns related to the body as separate from anything related to the brain. The following are just ten of many reasons this approach is problematic.
1. It engenders stigma: When we perceive the brain as an organ that is utterly distinct from the rest of the body, we dismiss concerns related to brain function and mental wellness as issues that either are not “medical” in nature or are somehow within the individual’s control, implying personal weakness if something is not working well.
2. It creates a division in care services, such that individuals know where to seek assistance if they have physical pain but are often left adrift or directed elsewhere to address their mental pain.
3. It demonstrates a very narrow understanding of the essential, integrated functioning of the body and the mind, dismissing the important ways in which untreated or unmanaged anxiety, stress, depression, or other mental concerns impact our physical health and well-being.
4. It allows providers to ignore essential components of patient wellness and allows providers to remain ignorant in relief measures and treatment modalities because they view mental health services as “specialized care,” not an integral part of the care they regularly provide their patients.
5. It reduces patients to bodies, not beings, which results in suboptimal care that doesn’t consider all the potential factors that contribute to both the healing process and overall health maintenance.
6. It fractionates care. Requiring patients to see a separate provider to discuss mental concerns results in their primary healthcare provider having a very limited understanding of who the patient truly is, which limits the ability to actually partner in developing care plans or discussing care concerns.
7. It alienates and shames patients, who may be reluctant to voice concerns regarding their mental functioning because they suspect their providers may be disinterested or perceive themselves as poorly equipped to help. The reality is that everyone has mental health, just as everyone has cardiac health, just as everyone has gynecologic health. Some is better than others, and each woman is affected by different things that may compromise her health and wellbeing, on all levels. We all have mental health concerns. They are just as unique and different from one woman to the next as our other health concerns.
8. It results in inappropriate treatment or misdiagnosis. When providers are not attuned to mental health as a critical component of overall functioning, they can misattribute reported symptoms to isolated physical ailments and begin a course of treatment that may not address the root cause.
9. It results in provider hesitation to learn about management options for mental health concerns, which widens the chasm between mental health and physical health as perceived as conditions a provider is capable of treating. As the provider becomes less informed, the provider becomes less capable of addressing patient concerns.
10. It delays treatment. For all of the above reasons, women are often late to request, receive or initiate mental health treatment, which results in more advanced conditions that are more difficult to manage and require more intervention than may otherwise have been the case.
When we integrate mental health care seamlessly into our routine provision of healthcare, we take into account the whole individual and all of the factors that combine to affect health and well-being. It allows us to fully treat concerns, both mental and physical, and treat them in their earlier stages with greater response to treatment and improved outcomes. In our modern era, it is an absolute shame that we continue the archaic practice of separating mind and body, as if that were even possible, and it is imperative that healthcare providers begin to see women as multi-faceted beings, not just female-shaped flesh. We are committed to breaking this mold, and we will always view you as a complete being, from the innerworkings of your brain to the very tips of your toes.