Prevention is better than a cure.
We’ve all heard the saying before, that it is better to stop a problem starting than it is to try to fix it once it appears.
And this philosophy has had a great effect in some areas of our health.
Take heart disease for example. We now know the risk factors for this – including poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking – and we have effective public intervention programmes addressing these. How effective may be up for debate, but generally we know that we should eat better, move more, and quit, respectively.
And if, for example, we want to move more, we know that we can join a gym to hear from experts. Or search on YouTube if we can’t be bothered to leave the house….. And interesting new research is showing that it doesn't have to be 10,000 steps a day, something as small as 10 minutes a day can have a big impact on our overall health an wellbeing. 10 minutes, a time frame so small that it is almost a challenge notto fit it in to your day.
Yet we are arguably in the midst of a mental health epidemic. Maybe this is due to increased diagnosis, maybe it is more on the social radar for other reasons. But no matter the reason for this, think about this. When you next take a train, or stand in a crowded room, and there is someone to each side of you and someone in front of you, statistically one of you will have a diagnosable mental health condition this year.
And if it isn’t one of the three in front of you, then look in the mirror when you get home.
This ‘1 in 4’ statistic has also been bandied around a lot. It’s in many of the current articles talking about mental health, diagnosis and treatment shortages. It’s coupled with another ‘1 in 4’ statistic – the number of people who have a mental health diagnosis that actually receive treatment at present.
So back to our hearts. We know we can jog. We can walk. We can lunge. We can eat fruits and vegetables. We can drink less alcohol. We can use patches or vape.
We know our options, we know what steps we can take to improve our heart’s health.
And should you wait until you have a heart attack before you start considering them? The general consensus is no, that prevention is better than a cure.
Yet what options are there for your mind? What can you do to improve your mental health? Are there simple steps that you can take to help yourself? Things you can encourage in others?
Please stop, just for a moment, and think of what you know helps your mental health.
If tumbleweed in a desert, or perhaps crickets, are the only things that come to mind, then you are not alone.
Part of the NHS five-year forward view highlights that we need to improve prevention of mental health issues. Not all of these are preventable, just like not all heart attacks are preventable. But some cases of both of them are. If we have access to the right tools.
And our minds and hearts are being shown in research to be even more connected than some of us might think. Having heart disease and depression leads to worse outcomes for them both. And improving one may lead to improvements in the other.
Prevention is better than a cure. For our hearts, as well as our minds.