Drawing A Line on #1stresponder Mental Health

By Brandon Dreiman

The generally-recognized statistic regarding behavioral health problems is that 1 in 5 people have a diagnosable behavioral health condition annually. I submit to you that the ratio is probably 5 in 5. The trap we fall into is believing that mental health problems are all some type of full-blown psychosis when, in fact, they can be considerably more subtle than that. A brief review of the DSM-5 will reveal a wide array of conditions — from benign to crippling.

Let’s compare physical health and behavioral health for a moment. Think back to last year. Heck, think back to last month. Did your body suffer any physical damage or illnesses? Of course it did. Strained backs, sprained ankles, headaches, burnt hands, jammed fingers, colds, bitten lips, hay fever, athlete’s foot, jock itch, paper cuts, funny bone hits, etc. The list of common physical injuries and illnesses goes on and on. Is it a stretch to expect that we could also suffer regular injuries or illnesses to our brains? And yes, I believe that some psychological diagnoses are injuries. Some conditions, as the result of outside factors/stressors, affect the structures and physical functioning of the brain. If that doesn’t describe an injury, then I don’t know what does.

The brain is far more complex a structure than any other part of the body, and it is used more often than any other organ. Yet we somehow manage to convince ourselves that problems with the brain are rare and unexpected. I would ask you to consider the real possibility that these types of conditions are a normal part of all of our lives.

Many of these issues are self-resolving, just like many physical injuries. Others, however, don’t just go away on their own, and we must be aware of that reality. It is time to put physical and mental health on the same plain. It’s a bit odd to me that we ever separated them in the first place. When we discuss mental illness and injury, about what are we talking? The brain. The most complex structure on earth, in my opinion. It’s a part of the physical body, is it not? Then why do we say psychological injuries and illnesses are not physical? They aren’t out there floating in the ether; they are occurring inside the body. How can they be anything other than physical? I submit to you that they are not.

It is time we recognized once and for all that behavioral health diagnoses are physical conditions, no more or less important than any other conditions from which we can suffer. The fact that we have harbored generations of misunderstanding and prejudice toward those dealing with these issues has done damage not only to those people, but it has also destroyed an important part of our humanity.

I want to draw a line in the sand and say, “No more!” Please stand with me and resolve to learn more and to talk about these issues. Let’s take back our humanity; let’s help one another heal!  #ArmorUp #changethenarrative

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