SAMHSA: Emotional health only one piece of personal wellness

October 27, 2011
Written by Shannon Eliot

People with mental and substance abuse disorders die decades earlier than the general population, according to Alternatives presenter and SAMHSA Communications Manager Lauren Spiro.

To reverse this trend, health experts congregated in 2007 to create a National Wellness Plan. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, the plan involves a wide-reaching campaign to promote wellness and reduce early mortality.

An important point to remember is that wellness is not just the absence of disease, illness, and stress, Spiro said.

"[Wellness] encompasses the presence of certain factors, such as active involvement in satisfying work and play, joyful relationships, a healthy body and living environment, and happiness," Spiro said. "Having a purpose in life is also a piece. Feeling like I am meant to do something, like working on this campaign, has helped me tremendously."

Another focus of the campaign is the promotion of social inclusion, according to Spiro. It is through social inclusion, says Spiro, that the requirements for wellness can be achieved.

"Social inclusion is a complex and multi-dimensional process that affects both the quality of life of individuals and the equity and cohesion of society as a whole," Spiro said. "Socially inclusive policies provide a framework to make this vision a reality."

And while emotional variables can have a noticeable impact on someone's mental health, it is only one of many pieces of overall wellness, according to the SAMHSA. In fact, there are eight dimensions of wellness for which we should strive. In addition to the traditional emotional component, individuals should also heed the financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual, and environmental pieces of wellness.

Aside from incorporating the Eight Dimensions of Wellness into recovery, SAMSHA's wellness objectives also include raising awareness that people with mental health challenges die decades earlier than the general population and motivating action to incorporate wellness as a means to enhance the quality and quantity of life.

"Our community not only dies sooner, but dies from preventable conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes," said Peggy Swarbrick, Director of Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey. "And part of the problem is the lack of comprehensive primary and behavioral healthcare or trauma-informed care."

To accomplish the objective of awareness, SAMHSA hosted National Wellness Week from September 19-25 as part of the broader National Recovery Month, according to Swarbrick. The week focused incorporated a call to action for individuals to incorporate the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, join with thousands of others in a Line Dance for Wellness, and to kick off community wellness activities throughout the year.

Presenter Mary Pat King contrasted the difference in awareness of mainstream diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease with the lesser-known issue of mental health.

"The difference is that I knew about breast cancer before I knew anyone in my life with breast cancer," King said. "How can we get people to have passion around this cause [of mental health]? We're about raising the bar on awareness. Everybody needs to know about it. Everybody needs to be angry about it. Everybody needs to do something about it. We are bringing this to all communities."

Wellness Dimensions Explained

  • Emotional: Developing skills and strategies to cope with stress
  • Environmental: Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-bring
  • Intellectual: Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  • Physical: Recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep, and nutrition
  • Occupational: Personal satisfaction and enrichment derived from one’s work
  • Spiritual: Search for meaning and purpose in the human experience
  • Social: Developing a sense of connection and a well-developed support system
  • Financial: Satisfaction with current and future financial situations

To learn more about the National Wellness Week and other SAMHSA wellness efforts, visit the SAMHSA Web site.