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  • Writer's pictureSam Taylor Foundation Team

Mental Health is Physical Health

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Mental Health is Physical Health

The overwhelming nature of the mental health crisis in our communities can be daunting. The statistics are grim. The solutions are so complicated as to feel inaccessible and the personal experiences, tragic. In the face of these truths, it is hard to believe that any person, with jobs and families and responsibilities and goals, can possibly make a ripple in the churning sea of need. This powerless and honest fact makes so many of us choose to look away and hope someone else will take up the task. Someone with more time, energy, and expertise. Someone with a clue about what to do. But what if you were already doing exactly the right thing to be part of the solution? What if the way to make a dent in the mental health crisis was just by doing what you likely already do?

It is essential to start with this knowledge. Mental health is physical health. The stigma around mental health disorders and the very nature of these disorders have separated the two in our minds. Someone who is profoundly depressed might seem sad, or not but physically, they can be in excellent condition from the outside. A person suffering from crippling anxiety might appear in the picture of health. It is much easier to identify the health risk of a person wearing a glucose monitor or someone who is suffering hair loss from chemotherapy treatments. We look at those health conditions with sympathy and understanding. However, there is no practical difference and in fact, mental health struggles are directly linked to negative and chronic physical health outcomes. There is no difference between what we understand as physical health conditions and mental health conditions.

In the mid 1990s, a massive study was undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser. 17,000 participants were asked about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and current health status. Adverse childhood experiences range from exposure to emotional abuse and neglect in the home or surrounding communities to grow up in households with addiction and mental health issues. The study shows a direct link between mental health-impacting experiences that create childhood trauma and negative health outcomes in adulthood. Mental health is physical health. The impact of these adverse childhood experiences would naturally lead anyone to predict potential mental health repercussions in adulthood. However, direct links were made to higher adult rates of heart disease, cancer, strokes, and other leading causes of mortality. If stigma prevents people from seeking help for mental health issues, then the stigma surrounding mental health is a national health crisis.

In addressing the findings of this replicated study, a major factor in breaking the link between childhood trauma and negative adult health outcomes is one simple piece of very encouraging news. Buffers make a difference. A buffer is a relationship that counters the toxic stress of a child’s environment. We can be buffers to young people in our lives and likely, are already doing just that. Looking out for the young people you encounter and knowing the signs of mental illness may be enough to make a difference. By being an adult who speaks about mental wellness, promotes resources and tools, and simply reaches out when you can, we are becoming the buffering adult that can make the difference not only in a child’s day but potentially in their future. A buffering adult creates a comfortable place, truly listens, shares an optimistic worldview, and collaborates with young people.

That powerless feeling when staring down the face of our community’s health crisis does not need to prevent you from being a resource. Knowing how to talk openly about mental health and being willing to do so, can offset adversity. We would not hesitate to reach out to a friend or student struggling with a broken leg. Can I carry your books? Do you need me to grab your lunch? There is no difference in extending a hand to someone struggling with mental health, but the potential impact can be significantly more important.

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person in front of you.” Mother Teresa

Please see The Sam Taylor Foundation for more information regarding services at

Please help support teens/young adults locally by donating at

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