[avatar user=”HSutton” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=”file” target=”_blank”]by Heather Sutton

How do you define wellness? What words come to mind?

Exercise. Healthy eating. Annual checkups. 7-8 hours of sleep.

While we still have a long way to go, we are doing a better job of taking care of our physical health, eating 25 percent more fresh fruit and 54 percent more fresh vegetables (excluding potatoes) in the U.S. since 1976.

But wellness is more than just physical. It also encompasses a person’s mental, spiritual, occupational, financial, environmental, intellectual and social well-being.

It is particularly important for people with mental health and substance abuse disorders to get healthy. On average, these individuals die decades earlier than the general population.

Why are these people more at risk?

There are six main factors that contribute to negative health outcomes:

  1. Poverty, social isolation and trauma
  2. Tobacco
  3. Obesity
  4. Medication side effects
  5. Other substance use
  6. Lack of access to quality healthcare

This leads to an array of preventable medication conditions, such as diabetes or cardiovascular, respiratory or infectious diseases (including HIV).

Preventable medical conditions.

Many individuals in recovery get well and go on to lead active, fulfilling lives with fewer illnesses. If more people were encouraged to seek treatment, imagine how their quality of life would improve and how many years of life they may regain.

How can we help?

It’s time to make mental health and substance abuse a part of the wellness conversation. If you know someone struggling to regain control of their life, give them a nudge in the right direction.

Helping them find the right services and showing your support may truly be life-saving. There are a number of resources available on our Get Help tab.

Join the movement

What does wellness mean to you? Leave us a comment and let us know.

And don’t forget to sign the pledge for wellness at SAMHSA’s website!