There’s a lot of scrutiny when it comes to mental health problems, exercise, and healthy eating. People tend to be on polar opposite sides of the spectrum and get easily offended if they even hear of the other side. It’s important to remember that it is a spectrum and healthy eating really does have it’s place in mental health but it doesn’t cure mental illness.
What’s the difference between mental health and mental illness?
A lot of people hear this question and laugh, thinking that everyone knows the difference but most of society truly doesn’t understand the difference between the two – and that’s ok. Everyone has mental health but not everyone has a mental illness. Mental health is almost the exact same thing as “health” but due to the word “mental” being put in front of it refers strictly to the mental wellbeing of someone. Mental illness, however, is very different. Mental illness is a disorder of the brain that taints the daily life of its sufferer. Mental illness often has to be treated with medication and consistent treatment. As an example we can look at the differences between “health” and Lyme disease; just because someone has health doesn’t mean they have Lyme disease. The same applies to mental health; just because someone has mental health doesn’t mean they have BiPolar Disorder.
Due to this major difference, people tend to group together mental health and mental illness and this is where the miscommunication in regards to diet and exercise come into play. Diet and exercise can help cure mental health problems* but diet and exercise cannot cure a mental illness. Saying that diet and exercise can cure mental illness is the same as saying diet and exercise can cure cancer – the two are in no way interconnected. However, mental health can be helped by proper nutrition. With better mental health some symptoms of mental illness can become easier to handle – but not cured. The same with cancer, if someone with cancer is eating properly their body is more likely to respond to treatment.
I know this may seem a little confusing but an easy way to look at it is by removing the label “mental” and just looking at health as health. Therefore changing the perspective that diet and exercise can help cure mental health to diet and exercise can cure…health? No! Diet and exercise can help improve your health, as it can help improve your mental health. Therapies and treatments cure cancer, therapies and treatments can cure mental illnesses**
* Diet and exercise don’t necessarily work to improving mental health for everyone
** not all mental illnesses are curable, many are chronic cases
It’s important to remember to keep an open mind and to educate people instead of getting angry with them. We cannot improve as a society if we are constantly yelling at each other. Education is the only way to understanding.