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Under the Surface of "Mental Illness"

Being an advocate of mental health awareness, inclusion and support, I am acutely aware that there is a huge misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what mental health and mental illness actually mean. In my view, and my experience, we are not a collection of separate entities and we are far greater than the sum of our parts, so to me the term "mental illness" describes a set of symptoms that may extend from any number of causes.

I am repeatedly surprised and somewhat frustrated by the conversations that take place, even in support of mental well being, that continue to view the mind as being separated from other aspects of an entire being. There is clear evidence that the health of the body, particularly when it comes to the gut, central nervous system and any form of inflammation, has a direct impact on mental and emotional regulation and function. Research tells us that up to 80-90% of the neurotransmitters in the brain are derived from the gut, so it makes sense that any issues with digestion may also be implicated in depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders. Spinal misalignments, birth trauma, genetic conditions, issues with detoxification, allergies and nutritional deficiencies have all been implicated in various mental health issues from anxiety to schizophrenia. There are also strong links between childhood trauma and the development of long-term physical and mental dis-ease. In addition to this, issues of poverty, social isolation, family dysfunction and bullying, parental expectations and lack of warmth, nurturing, food and sleep can, and do, affect the brain.

It is time to stop looking at mental health in isolation. It is even time to go beyond mind/ body/ spirit models of health and start including community and environmental aspects in our understanding, assessment and treatment of mental health conditions. It is time to see beyond the label of mental illness and to acknowledge that there is so much going on with and for people beneath the surface. It is time to be more compassionate for others by recognising that things may not be as they appear and we do not know what we do not know...

Luella is a Professional Speaker, Trainer and Workshop Facilitator in Health, Education and Performance. For more information please refer to

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