The moment that you have your first child, your world changes. Suddenly, there is a new center of the universe and a new top priority. You want to give your son or daughter the best life possible, and you want to keep them happy, healthy, and connected to you and the rest of your family.
Raising a healthy child means regular visits to the pediatrician, healthy foods, opportunities for games and exercise, and all of the other things that you’re careful to provide in order to care for your child’s physical health. But, as you may well realize, physical health isn’t everything: We also need to care for the mental health of our children.
Caring for your child’s mind
Just as with physical health, achieving great mental health requires good everyday decisions. In fact, your child’s mental health relies on many of the same things that his or her physical health does. A great diet, plenty of exercise, and regular sleep patterns are all good for a person’s mental health, just as they are for a person’s physical health.
The support of a loving family matters enormously, too. Bring your family together for meals and other moments — and be a good example of work-life balance by taking family vacations. Heading down to Florida may not seem like a mental health treatment, but experts say that it actually is. There’s a ton of evidence to support that a relaxing day on the beach and a West Palm Beach sunset cruise can actually calm us down, lower our stress levels, make us happier (and even physically healthier), and return us to our daily lives feeling recharged and being measurably more productive at school or work.
Another key to great mental health is communication, and that’s particularly important to parents and children. Your child isn’t going to go set up his or her own mental health care appointment and drive him or herself there. You need to know what is going on in his or her head. Encourage healthy communication and know how to get your child to open up, so that you have a better chance of identifying mental health issues early instead of finding out later that your child hid them from you.
What to do when things go wrong
Mental health and physical health have a lot in common, but we don’t always recognize that. We can keep our child eating healthy foods and exercising, yet we won’t be surprised if our child comes down with a physical ailment. Can we appreciate the same truth about mental health?
The fact of the matter is that, while there is much that you can and should do to care for your child’s mental health, you can’t control everything. Mental health issues are very common, even among children, and especially among teens. If your child shows symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other common problems, don’t take it personally or blame yourself, but do take it seriously.
In situations like these, experts say, you should seek professional help. Seek out mental health care providers like psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. Consider inpatient rehab, too, such as Polaris adolescent residential treatment centers for mental health issues. Sometimes, getting your child away from difficult situations and familiar settings can help enormously.
Just like physical health, mental health requires regular care. Also like physical health, it sometimes requires us to go to the doctor. When you make mental health a priority in your family, you’ll help your children live the life you want for them.
The way we live says a lot about us. Lifestyle means a lot to us and is about more than how much fun you’re having or how much work you’re getting done. It also has a profound effect on your mental health.
That’s why it’s smart to take a step back and examine your own lifestyle. How is it helping your mental health? How it is hurting? The consequences of a lifestyle that runs counter to your mental health interests can be severe, so take action and build a better, healthier life.
Is your lifestyle good for you?
Everyday, we make decisions (or follow through on powerful habit loops) that affect our mental health, whether we realize it or not. And, over time, these decisions can add up to a complete mental health picture — for better or for worse. Let’s take a closer look at your lifestyle.
Mental health and physical health are much more closely connected than many of us realize, and a poor diet and lack of exercise can bring down your mood and make you more vulnerable to all kinds of common mental health conditions.
Consider stress. What about your environment — including your home, your commute, and your work environment — might contribute to higher stress levels? What about your work, your career, and your current work-life balance (or lack thereof) might be raising your stress?
What about the place that you live in? Big cities with competitive work environments tend to lead to higher stress levels, so residents of places such as Washington, D.C., may want to be more proactive about their mental health than others, expert DC therapists point out — though they emphasize that virtually anyone can benefit from therapy.
Are you seeking treatment for any mental health issues? Are you in therapy? You probably visit the doctor regularly for physical checkups — do you do the same for your mind?
What a rough lifestyle can do to your mind
All of the questions and concerns above are important because, if you’re not careful, your wrong answers could lead to serious mental health problems.
Anxiety disorders are, when taken together, the most common form of mental health issues. They can be triggered and exacerbated by stress — the same sort of stress that is caused by your lack of work-life balance or your busy, competitive life in a big city like Washington, D.C.
Depression is common, too, and it can be worsened by the low moods you’ll experience when you fail to get proper nutrition or exercise regularly.
And other, less common mental health issues can arise from environmental factors — including basic, ongoing lifestyle decisions — too. So get smart and change your life.
Building a better life
The idea of changing your whole lifestyle to improve your mental health can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to do all of this at once, and reprogramming habit loops for the better will help you achieve long-term, sustainable change.
Tackle bad habits first, and start fighting for the little things that will improve your mental health, such as a vacation or a rule against answering emails after hours. Leave a bit earlier to make your big-city commute less stressful. Aim for sustainable changes — rather than crash diets — and try adding vegetables in and swapping out a few unhealthy favorites for healthier options. And, above all, get some professional help. Your mental health is an important dimension of your overall health, and it deserves the same professional care that you’d give your physical health.
According to World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” (1)
Keeping the balance
The old Latin phrase “mens sana in corpore sano” (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”) emphasizes the importance of the physical exercise in keeping the mental well-being. There are studies that show how a healthy eating habit and regular exercise can help to maintain the balance of mental and physical health.
Regular and healthy meals, proper exercises, getting enough sleep, finding a vocation, and a fulfilling relationship, seeing a movie, listening to the music, reading a book, hanging out with friends, taking a trip, getting a massage, or getting a hug, stroking a pet, having a hobby remain the basic methods to cope with stress, but sometimes is not enough, or may seem hard to achieve.
In our world full with stressors of all kinds, school or work responsibilities, unemployment, financial problems, family duties, family troubles, divorce, the search for a partner, the break-ups, losing a loved one, or a physical illness can prevent us from doing regular exercises, due to lack of time, lack of motivation, lack of physical strength.
Signs you may need to talk to a physician or a therapist
If you often find yourself not feeling in the mood to get out, or you don’t want to be part of social activities, if your mood swings are frequent, and the feelings of sadness, fear, worry are persistent, if you experience memory loss and confusion, delusions, or hallucinations, these might be signs of a mental condition. Other symptoms may include: eating or sleeping disorders, a decrease of school or work performances, inability to cope with daily activities, substance abuse, unexplained physical ailments, defiance of authority, truancy, theft, or vandalism. (2)
Mental health therapists
The first step is to see your general practitioner, he or she might give you a referral to a mental health therapist: a psychologist, a clinical counselor, a psychoanalyst, or a psychiatrist.
The psychiatrists diagnose and treat condition like schizophrenia, dementia, depression, anxiety, sleeping disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder. They prescribe medication, but do not offer counseling, generally they work with a psychologist or a counselor.
The psychologists diagnose and treat conditions like relationship problems, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, learning difficulties. They are allowed to prescribe medication only in a few states, but they usually work with a psychiatrist.
There are all kind of counselors: marital and family therapists, career counselors, relationship counselor, drama therapist, or speech therapist, or counselors who work with social care to help people with disabilities.
If you have a mild mental condition, a counselor can help you to cope with it, offering guidance for you to explore your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. If you suffer from a mental disorder, you will be referred to a psychologist or to a psychiatrist. At BetterHelp you can find therapists from many states and with a wide range of specializations. Also you can find a lot of useful information about mental health.
Be careful, if you are in a crisis, if you want to hurt yourself or to hurt other people, or someone else shows these symptoms, do not use the internet, call 911 for urgent help.
Telehealth and telemedicine are considered synonymous. In both situations it’s about the physical distance between the patient and the health care provider. Both uses information and communication technologies to deliver and exchange medical information (or any kind of data related to health) in order to achieve diagnosis, treatment plan and prevention of disease and injuries. Telemedicine includes also research and evaluation and continuing education of health care providers. However, a refined definition regards telemedicine as a service delivered by physicians only, while telehealth can be provided by “health professionals in general, including nurses, pharmacists, and others.” (1)
The way patients see telemedicine or telehealth showed improvements since the beginning of this century
In an early study from 2000, telemedicine was used to deliver specialist oncology/haematology care. Patients were satisfied with their teleconsultations, but also expressed concerns regarding the limitations of such a service. (2)
Another study, published in 2004, has shown a better perception of telemedicine. According to the authors: “Despite concerns regarding its confidentiality and its ability to approximate the social stimulation of in-person nursing visits, patients in these pilot trials seemed satisfied with home telecare and appeared ready to accept its widespread use. “ (3)
Also, a study released in 2011 concluded that “[…] brief use of a Web-based telemedicine service has a significant positive effect on patients’ perceptions of this service. Therefore, as patients do not have prior experience with innovative telemedicine services, offering patients a risk-free way to explore and experiment with the service can increase the development of accurate perceptions and user needs.” (4)
A recent study, published in 2018, used telehealth for type 2 diabetes management. The patients were pleased by telehealth improved access to care. Lots of them said they would prefer telehealth care rather than their regular appointments at the doctor’s office. However, “they would not want it to fully replace their contacts with their doctor, especially when it comes to discussing more serious health issues.” (5)
A short history of telemedicine
It can be said that telemedicine started in the early 20th century when electrocardiograph data were transmitted over telephone wires. Then, in the 1960s telemedicine was used for military and space technology sectors.
Also, consultations between specialists of a psychiatric institute and general practitioners of a state mental hospital were made through television.
It is interesting to mention that in 1925, Hugo Gernsback, a radio pioneer, published an article about a device called the “teledactyl” (tele, far; dactyl finger, from the Greek). That device would permit doctors to see their patients through a viewscreen, and to touch them from miles away with robot arms. That article predicted telemedicine, we can say. (6)
Nowadays telehealth has multiple uses
Although the reimbursement method is not very clear, the telehealth is reaching more patients, some of them being willing to pay a fee for the teleconsultation.
However, 38 states plus District of Columbia require private insurance companies to pay for telehealth. (7)
Intended to be used in disadvantaged areas, like poor or developing countries, with lack of medical care, telehealth has begun to spread over the world, as the access to the internet and to the specialized gadgets and devices becomes more affordable. The patient is able to measure their blood sugar level, or their blood pressure and the data are transmitted to the health care provider. Also, the video conferences allow the patient to speak directly to the physician or to the counselor.
We already mentioned diabetes type 2 home surveillance. There are also post-surgical follow-ups and post-hospital discharges where telehealth is used to keep in touch with the patients. Also, telehealth addresses chronic condition, especially in seniors, for whom might be difficult to leave the home. Telemedicine can also be used for a prescription renewal, or for treatment management.
People may use telehealth for other reasons, like they do not have to pay for the transportation to the doctor’s office, or they do not have time to wait. Teleconsultations are scheduled and the patient gets a reminder to ensure he or she will be online for the appointment.
Telehealth can be useful for behavioral health, or mental health, because the patient feels in a secure environment talking to the counselor from his own home. Be careful, though, if you are in a crisis, or someone is in a crisis, or it’s an emergency, do not use telehealth. Seek for immediate help by calling 911 in the U.S. or 112 in Europe. Every telehealth provider should have a list of numbers to call when there is an emergency.