Mental health just as important as physical health
People know the importance of keeping healthy and the benefits of exercise, healthy diet, and active lifestyle.
But Professor Barbara Sahakian, best known for her expertise on cognitive enhancers, has asked people to prioritise mental health in the same way as physical health.
“As a society, we take our mental health for granted. But just like our bodies, it is important to keep our brains fit,” said Prof Sahakian.
In any given year, one in every four adults suffers from a mental disorder. As a result, in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, mental disorders are the leading cause of disability, with depression and anxiety accounting for a significant percentage of the disorders.
“Just as joggers check their pulse rate, we should encourage individuals to regularly keep an eye on the state of their mental health. Often people wait too long to seek help, making their condition more difficult to treat. We need to educate the public about what to look for and make them aware of the importance of early detection and intervention,” added Sahakian.
Mental and physical health are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, exercise is good for your cognition, mood and physical health. You can improve your cognition and brain health throughout your life through exercise and learning: both of which have been shown to increase neurogenesis in the brain. Psychological wellbeing, especially in the early years of life, is important for instilling resilience throughout life.
Professor Sahakian is also advocating for the use of innovation and technology to improve our mental health. Innovation is leading to novel treatments both pharmacological and psychological.
“Innovation which promotes enjoyable cognitive training for example through the use of games on iPads and mobile phone apps will be of great benefit to healthy people and those with mental health problems alike,” said Professor Sahakian.
“Technology for early detection of problems in brain health and for monitoring mental health problems is essential. This will promote early detection and early effective treatment, as well as public health planning. Hopefully, this conceptual shift in the way society views brain health will ultimately lead to the prevention of common mental health problems,” she added.