Mental Health Is Whole Body Health

It’s tempting to cope with stress and anxiety with a glass of wine or another substance. There are whole body health alternatives, says an expert from Oakland Community Health Network.

We’re beginning to recognize that mental and physical health are interconnected, and that’s a good thing. But where does substance use fit into this equation? By adopting a whole body mental health perspective, we can reduce stigma and embrace healthy ways to cope with the challenges of everyday life.

“The mind and body go hand in hand. We can’t do for one and neglect the other. We need to be mindful of what impacts our bodies, including physical ailments and stress, and make sure there is balance,” says Rachel Rhodes, licensed master social worker and Substance Use Disorder Prevention Coordinator with Oakland Community Health Network (OCHN).

Some people regularly use alcohol and substances to cope. But research shows that mental illness and substance use can co-occur. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 13% of young adults had both a substance use disorder and a mental illness in 2021.

“Anything in excess can harm the body. Everything in moderation,” says Rhodes. “When you look at substances and how they can impact the body, alcohol can lead to cirrhosis of the liver if too much is consumed over time. With your own body biology and your own health concerns, substances can impact and contribute to health problems.”

It’s fairly common for people to use substances to numb mental health symptoms and pain, but over the long term, this doesn’t address the root problem and can lead to addiction and other health concerns. “Substance use is not a healthy coping mechanism,” she says.

Fortunately, there are healthier alternatives to help cope with stress and anxiety. Consider these to be more positive options for your own whole body mental health.

“Yoga, running, writing, journaling and kickboxing are just a few activities to try,” Rhodes says. “It all depends on what works best for you. Different healthy strategies can help ground and center you so you are able to stay in the moment to bring peace to your body and address what you might be dealing with.”

Building new habits can be hard, so connect with resources to help. “If you feel you are struggling with substance use, speak with your doctor or therapist,” Rhodes says, adding that some substances can’t be stopped suddenly. “Do it in a healthy manner. There are facilities with support and services you need to help you through that.”

If you’re unsure whether you need help, reach out to OCHN’s Access Line at 248-464-6363 for a no-judgment screening. Or call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Both are great resources and can connect you to a provider network for substance use and mental health services.

“We want to make sure you are safe and getting connected to the services you need,” Rhodes says. “We meet you where you are. Your situation is not hopeless. There are services available for everyone who is willing and wants services. Please get connected. It will change your life.”

OCHN leads a provider service network that assists approximately 27,000 Oakland County citizens at more than 300 service sites across the county. People who receive public mental health services through OCHN’s provider network include those who have an intellectual or developmental disability, mental health challenge or substance use disorder.   

OCHN’s goal is to ensure individuals are aware of and have access to services and supports that will improve their health and quality of life, as well as ensure their engagement in full community participation. Its mission to “inspire hope, empower people and strengthen communities” reflects an unyielding belief in a “Valuable System for Valued People.” Programs and supports provided by OCHN’s service network are available at oaklandchn.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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