Health

A new way of thinking about treating illness.

Let’s say there are 10 people in a room and five of them are sweating profusely and uncomfortably. If your goal was to help them feel better, what would you do?

If you’re a doctor with a six-month waiting list and only 15 minutes to see each sweaty patient, you can measure their sweating level, diagnose them with an overactive gland disorder, and prescribe a pill that blocks sweat signals from his brain.

If you’re a wellness influencer, you can create an eye-catching reel that both validates their suffering (“It’s normal to sweat…I sweat too!) and offers self-cooling hacks and a sponsored link to buy a portable fan.

But let’s say you’re an alien descending on Earth for the first time, untouched by the usual morass of health care and self-care. You might come to a simpler conclusion: Maybe the room is too hot. Instead of diagnosing and treating or validating and commodifying each individual’s excess sweat, you might first see if you can freshen up the room.

Replace “sweat” with “struggle mentally,” and the same arguments apply: Recent estimates suggest that 50% of the world’s population will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime, with a particular increase since COVID. Because it can be difficult to get an appointment with a therapist, primary care doctors often prescribe medications, usually antidepressants, that may or may not help. And to address these healthcare deficiencies, more and more people are turning to influencers, who tend to promote their own non-pharmaceutical products and practices: fidget toys, gratitude journals, ice baths, etc.

Let’s be clear: like sweat, the symptoms of our mental health issues are real and painful. And just as the anti-sweat pill and portable fan would actually help a sweaty person feel better, our usual tools—medications, therapies, and personal care products—can also help ease our mental struggles.

The problem is not with these tools, nor with the people pushing them; they too are victims of a system that leaves little choice but to focus on symptoms and understandably just wants people to feel better in the meantime. The problem, instead, lies in our naive assumption that our epidemics of depression, anxiety, ADHD, trauma, chronic pain, and addiction can be solved by individual tools alone. The problem, according to renowned British epidemiologist Michael Marmot, is the way our health systems are forced to “treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick.”

In other words, the problem is that the room is too hot. If our modern living conditions continue to disconnect us from our felt need for sources of joy, meaning, and relationships, then the majority of us will continue to feel unwell.

Thought leaders in indigenous, oriental, holistic and integrative medicine and the field of positive psychology have long preached this idea. They recognized the importance of basic resources: clean air, abundant trees, nutritious food, good housing, extra money, protection from violence and discrimination. And they also recognize the importance of psychological resources: Is there someone we can call at 3 a.m. in a crisis? Do we feel like we have a reason to wake up in the morning? Do we have ways to cope with the sadness, anger, and fear that come with being human?

Large-scale epidemiological studies suggest that these factors – collectively called “social determinants” – contribute to 80 percent of our health outcomes. Many studies suggest that having sources of well-being, a sense of purpose, and meaningful relationships can influence our longevity. And, in its earlier forms, our own Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders recognized it on the other side too – more than depression, anxiety or attention deficit troubles, you were depressed, anxious and hyperkinetic”reactions. » Illness was seen less as a fixed set of symptoms governed by purely biological factors in a body, but more as a response to a stressful environment.

Today, it seems like these stressors are everywhere. 90% of Americans believe there is a mental health crisis. More and more of us report feeling stressed, lonely, “sluggish,” and pessimistic about the future.

But just as certain social environments can exacerbate our symptoms, others can alleviate them. Maybe if we were systematically reconnected both our basic needs for economic security and our psychological needs for joy, meaning, and relationships, more of us might start to feel better. We could, so to speak, freshen up the room.

For a long time, this seemed like crazy Pollyanna thinking: good in theory, but unworkable in health care, untenable against big pharma and big tech, and useless for the majority of us who struggle in the field of health care. in the meantime Yeah buddy, while you wait for the world to change, I’m going to take my Prozac and my ice bath, thanks.

And yet, perhaps because our health care system charged with diagnosing and treating individuals is at its breaking point, and because self-help measures can only take us so far , East a movement to heal social determinants with social prescriptions.

Far from the introverted landscapes of forced friendship that they resemble, social prescriptions refer to non-medical resources – like nutritious food, employment assistance, and housing assistance – and activities – like groups cyclists, art classes and shared dinners. To prescribe them, instead of just asking, “What do you have?” ”, doctors, therapists and health workers ask: “What matters to you? Then they prescribe real community activity related to that response, the same way they prescribe pills.

Investigating the spread of this practice across 30 countries (including some pockets of the United States) for my new book, The cure to connection, I have seen first-hand how social prescriptions actually help people feel better. I saw how doctors prescribing cash and other non-medical resources can, according to a Vancouver study, increase patients’ confidence in their ability to manage or prevent future health problems, which in turn can then improve their depression symptoms, PTSD symptoms, and quality of life. I’ve seen how doctors prescribing legal help can help eliminate chronic health problems and, according to a study in Cincinnati, reduce hospitalizations by 38 percent. It makes perfect sense: When doctors treat the underlying conditions that make people sick with practical, non-medical resources, those people get better.

These resources are an important first step, because, of course, an art class doesn’t do much for someone who’s struggling to pay for groceries and rent. But activity-based social prescriptions that reconnect people to sources of joy, meaning, and relationships can also be incredibly helpful (and are often easier to prescribe than money).

Take Jonas, a history buff who had been diagnosed with agoraphobia and panic disorder, and who had tried all kinds of health and self-care options: therapy, medication, marijuana. He says his anxiety once felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy; when someone asked him questions, his symptoms worsened. But then Jonas was prescribed “cultural vitamins,” a 10-week course featuring local arts excursions like concerts, museum visits and shared reading sessions at a library. Instead of focusing on what made Jonas sick, the cultural vitamins occupied his body and mind with activities that made him feel good. And sure enough, by the end of the course, Jonas both reduced the severity of his anxiety and started to feel healthier. He says he rediscovered his childhood love of reading, began leaving the house more and found “relief from his feelings.” He had gone from feeling like his “days were an undifferentiated gray mass” to feeling like he “was himself again.”

It was a similar story with Akeela, a loving mother and dedicated health worker who battled debilitating back pain. All she wanted was a way to get back to work. And when painkillers didn’t help and relegated her to even more bed rest, she began to feel even worse: angry, withdrawn from loved ones and, ultimately, suicidal. She says her antidepressants and counseling didn’t help much either, because they made her feel like something was wrong with her. But then, when Akeela met a new health worker and confessed that she felt like she “couldn’t do anything anymore,” the health worker reassured her otherwise and sensed what Akeela really needed: a job where she could feel useful again. Looking for a way for Akeela to practice her caregiving skills without paying her taxes, this health worker prescribed her a volunteer job at a children’s charity.

Akeela says this prescription literally saved her life; today, she works full-time at this charity. And although she still suffers from occasional back pain, she says she views her symptoms as part of her life, not the rulers of it.

My favorite before and after comes from Amanda, a passionate researcher who was diagnosed with major depressive disorder after the death of her mother, her husband’s cheating, losing her job, and moving to a new place where she didn’t work. I do not know anyone. Amanda had been prescribed the highest possible dose of antidepressants, which did help her feel better. She was also prescribed a sea swimming lesson, an activity that allowed her to meet new people, pushed her out of her comfort zone and was quite fun. Today, although Amanda says she still takes a low dose of antidepressants, she says her real cure is her community of fellow swimmers, whom she still meets up with every weekend to swim. She says it was the sea swimming group that helped “push away deep, dark thoughts” and “helped life become bright…

News Source : slate.com
Gn Health

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