30-day-challenge5Day 5: Do you believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture (environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

This is an interesting question and one which I have considered on numerous previous occasions.

To be honest, I did, at first, speculate as to whether the question was inquiring about the cause of my mental illnesses.

But the wording is not specific to my mental health but mental health in general and is (by the inclusion of the word ‘has’ current.

  “Do you believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture (environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

Which, seeing as I cannot remember my early childhood and thus do not know exactly when my mental illnesses began (at birth or later), is a good thing as I wouldn’t really be able to answer that particular question.

But since the question clearly states ‘has‘ and therefore is current and since it is more general I feel I can answer the question fairly easily.

Do you (I) believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture(environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

I personally believe that a number of factors (including, but not only, those factors listed within the question can have an impact on mental health.

In terms of causation, and especially when it comes to the old ‘nurture verses nature’ question, I fully believe that some folk experience poor mental health as a result of the introduction or impact of  a harmful external factor in their life, whereas for others it can be as a result of some form of genetic influence. 

nature-vs-nurtureBut when it comes to the question of what has an impact on mental health, the truth is that I am convinced that very few people fully understand or have a good grasp of what mental health really is or indeed what mental illness really is.

I think that one of the problems is that we tend to look for (or seem to want to think in terms of) the black and white.  You are either well or you are not.  You are either healthy or you are ill. But mental health and mental illness doesn’t exist solely within the world of black and white, it encompasses a myriad of greys and at times an explosive palette of various colors also.  And it can, in my understanding and experience, be; influenced by, impacted by, triggered by a number of different things.

Can nature (biology/physiology), have an impact on mental health?” 

Yes, absolutely I believe it can.  In fact we have for some time now recognized that certain genetic factors can be indicative in mental health and indeed we have long since recognized such things as chemical imbalances and the effects that they can have on a person’s mental health.

Additionally, (and here again I speak from personal experience) I personally suffer from both poor mental health and poor physical health and I am fully aware of how the two can often affect or impact each other.

The question also asks “can nurture (environment), have an impact on mental health?” 

Yes indeed.  Here again, I believe that it can.  One such very simple and personal example would be that I myself have come to learn that maintaining a tidy and orderly home environment has a positive influence on my own mental health whereas having a disorganized and untidy home environment had a negative influence on my mental health.

Somewhat more obvious and slightly more complex an example would be in respect of the impact on the mental health of children who are raised in volatile or violent homes and indeed also adults who live within such homes.

Do I believe it can it be a mix?”  The question also asks.

Yes I believe that it is entirely possible that several different factors can be simultaneously at play in impacting someone’s mental health. 

For example, I believe that the actions and behavior of someone who was (let’s say for the sake of this example) born with mental illness can indeed contribute towards creating an environment which in turn becomes unhealthy for, and thus also has an impact on, that person’s mental health and indeed the mental health of others.

Argument-between-ParentsWhich brings me to the final part of the question…

or (do I believe that) something else has an impact on mental health?

Well firstly I would have to say (probably as a result of either my Aspergers or my OCD) that despite the way the question is structured (or at very least the way I read it) the introduction of further possibility is not exclusively separate to the ‘mix’ possibility previously offered and subsequently considered above.

And it is here that I personally would have to introduce a couple of factors not previously readily considered.  These being the possible ’emotional’ and ‘spiritual’ aspects of mental health.

I am convinced that our emotional health can also have a very real influence on our mental health and vise versa.

Likewise, as a Christian, I fully believe in the ‘spiritual’ aspect of our existence as human beings.  As a Christian who has, for a very long time now experience schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorder and the accompanying thoughts and voices, I am also acutely aware at how the very talk of ‘God’ and ‘spirituality’ can be received by some mental health care professionals LOL.

But I have to remain true to my faith and indeed my beliefs.  I am personally convinced both that a) there is a spiritual aspect to our existence as human beings and b) for us to ignore the spiritual aspect of our existence and therefore the possibility of spiritual influences on my mental health would be both fool hardy and reckless.

So there you have it. My answer to Day 5’s question in this 30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge, that I am currently undertaking.  I hope it hasn’t bored you too much and that I have at least in part made some sense.

I think it was Aristotle who stated “the whole is more than the sum of its parts.”  And I understand where he was coming from.  But in order for us to be ‘more than the sum of our parts’ and in order for us to truly understand ourselves and our mental health we must at least, in my opinion, be open to considering how each part interacts, feeds off and influences the other,