Why we need to start talking about brain health

May 13, 2019

This week is mental health week.  It's a topic of discussion that can be difficult to have, particularly if you've been diagnosed with, or are struggling at present with a mental health issue.

With mental health on the rise, particularly in the younger generation, isn't it time to view mental health from a different perspective?  So what if we called mental health brain health?

Here's five reasons why we should start talking about brain health.

  1. Brain health removes the label and stigma.  How many of you have avoided talking to a "Mental Health Champion" in your workplace, even though you know that you'd like to talk to someone about a struggle you're having, because of the fear of being labelled as having a mental health issue?  I know I did.  I didn't want to be labelled with the feeling of being 'defective.'  Talking about brain health removes the stigma and label attached to mental health.  In a society where we seek to avoid labelling people, which can have a negative impact on the individual from a health management perspective, isn't it time to remove the label we attach to mental health?  If we move away from the discussion "I have a mental health issue," to "I have a brain struggle," which anyone can have, it opens and widens the door to a far more positive, proactive and supportive discussion.  Everyone is on a spectrum of mental health.  You could be performing great in one area of your life (like work), yet crashing in another (such as relationships at home).  So let's stop putting people into that mental health bucket and talk about brain health.
  2. Most people want a better brain.  Most people want to know what they can do more of to have a better brain, better lifestyle, increased happiness, greater connectivity.  Everyone wants more of something.  When you talk about mental health, it tends to focus on what you can do less of to avoid getting a particular mental health condition or how to manage a mental health issue.  Immediately the conversation starts from a negative setting, rather than providing a positive platform and springboard for growth.  By switching the conversation from mental health to brain health, it becomes forward leaning.  In much the same way as effective coaching, it provides individuals with an opportunity to feed forward, i.e. learn what they can do more of to optimise their brain health.    
  3. Brain health opens up the topic of preventative healthcare.  When we talk about brain health we can look at what steps we can take to prevent the decline in our brain function.  Mental health is a small subset of brain health.  Early stage intervention, education and training can be targeted at the specific brain types and at risk groups.  This enables us to have a proactive discussion about reducing our risk factors associated with brain struggles, helping people better manage and optimise their brain health for the long term.  Given it is our brains that fundamentally determine the effectiveness of any organisation, it also turns the traditional "tick box" exercise by corporations seeking to demonstrate how they are addressing mental health, to a far more proactive, accountable conversation on how organisations can help ensure that their people take better care of their brains. 
  4. Brain health enables root cause analysis and targeted treatment and intervention.  Everyone's brain is unique.  There is not a "one size fits all" solution to improving your brain health, or any mental health issue for that matter.  Treatment needs to be targeted and specific to an individual's brain type.  The Amen Clinics have identified seven different types of depression and seven different types of anxiety, based on a person's particular brain type.  Thus labelling and then treating an individual diagnosed with, for example, anxiety, with the same intervention - typically a drug, is not only antiquated, but ought to be considered malpractice, based on what is now known about our brains.  Talking about brain health deepens the conversation and through education and training helps individuals better understand what they can do to optimise their brain.
  5. Brain health is everyone's responsibility.  When we talk about brain health it becomes everyone's responsibility as everyone has a brain.  When we talk about mental health, those that aren't currently affected, or involved in supporting those that are, can adopt the view that "I'm not in that boat," and so they don't need to steer the topic of discussion or can simply avoid it altogether.  When you talk about brain health, you can start to think about what habits, feelings and thoughts you are having, as well as how you are connecting with your purpose and values and others, to understand how optimised your brain health is.  All of these factors, along with your biological makeup, determine how effectively you are managing your brain health.

Are you adopting a Wellbeing Warrior MINDSET to take back control of your wellbeing and optimise your brain?   I use this mnemonic to help my clients optimise their brain health.  M stands for Maintain your brain.  Like the engine of a car, our brains run everything in our bodies.  We wouldn't dream of putting the wrong fuel in our cars, yet we frequently put the wrong fuel in the engine of our bodies - our brain.  Every year what have to get our cars MOT'd.  What are you doing to maintain and optimise your brain?

If you'd like to learn more about how to optimise the brain health in your organisation, or are interested in brain health coaching, please email [email protected] or register your interest here for a FREE Strategy Session.

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