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Finding Your Way to Total Health
October 3, 2012

Finding Your Way to Total Health
Larry D. Jones, MPH
October 2, 2012 

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. It’s important to realize that in order to be healthy overall, we need to take care of our mental and social health, too.

Our mental health is closely connected to our physical health. For example, there’s a link between depression and obesity, especially for women. Weight is affected by two things—genes and lifestyle—and how we feel emotionally plays a big part in what and how much we eat, and how active we are. When we’re feeling down, we tend to eat foods that are not as good for us, and we eat more of them. This contributes to the problem of overweight and obesity, which in turn, lead to feelings of frustration, discouragement, and lower self-esteem, and the cycle continues.

The Independence Health Department and its partners in Building a Healthier Independence provide plenty of opportunities for exercise. The Mile Starts Here (our weekly walking program) and classes at Sermon Center and Palmer Center are great ways for residents to be physically active while interacting with others in a friendly atmosphere. This kind of activity improves overall health—physical, mental, and social health. For more information, visit www.buildingahealthierindependence.org or www.ci.independence.mo.us/parksandrec/.

Stress is another common concern when it comes to mental health. Life is full of things that cause us stress—challenges at work, finances, car troubles, kids, and so on. Some people might rely on food to relieve stress, which contributes to the problem of excess weight; others may turn to smoking. Unfortunately, smoking can also be a major source of stress, a big expense, and a cause of serious health problems. If you smoke and are realizing that it’s causing you more problems than it’s worth, smoking cessation classes can help you kick the habit, save money, and improve your mental and physical health. The classes are offered in a group setting, so they also provide an opportunity to get and give support to others who are going through the same thing. Call the health department at 325-7185 for more information.

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems, and it can be serious. Symptoms of depression include feeling down or hopeless, having little interest in things that you normally enjoy, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, having little energy, having trouble concentrating, feeling bad about yourself or feeling like a failure. Anyone who is experiencing depression should seek help from a mental health professional. The Access Crisis Intervention (ACI) line is a state-wide line that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The ACI line is staffed by mental health professionals who will talk to you about the crisis you are facing and how to get further support. The number for the ACI line in Jackson County is 1-888-279-8188.

Information from the World Health Organization (www.who.int), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov), American Psychological Association (www.apa.org), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (www.samhsa.gov), and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (www.health.mo.gov).

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