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World Mental Health Day The SeniorScape®

World Mental Health Day is held each year on October 10th. The goal of the day is to help raise awareness about mental illness and help the people who are living with mental health challenges to live with more dignity.

Persons living with the challenges associated with mental illness often find themselves at the receiving end of discrimination, misunderstanding, lack of empathy, and lack of support.

While there is certainly a difference between those living with mental illness or disease and those living under extreme stress and duress, it should be noted that the burden of extreme and chronic stress impacts a person’s emotional and psychological wellbeing in a way that can lead to both mental health and medical issues. The effect of long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression but can also lead to substance abuse, sleep problems and physical discomfort. These mental and physical symptoms affect a person’s behavior and their relationships.

In a 2014 study out of the University of California-Berkley, researchers found evidence that chronic stress causes long-term changes in the brain which may be the root cause of the anxiety and mood disorders that chronic stress sufferers experience later in life.

Children subjected to stressful events are reported to exhibit behavioral and cognitive deficits later in life, often leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression.

In April 2023, Tunc Tiryaki, the founder of the London Regenerative Institute, said chronic stress triggers a “cascade of biological responses in the body.” He noted that

It triggers the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which can cause inflammation and damage to DNA and cells. It can also increase your biological age by affecting telomeres, the protective caps on the end of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division. Stress can also cause inflammation and damage to DNA cells which also accelerate aging. Telomeres are thought to be a biological marker of aging, and when shortened, can contribute to premature aging.

If, as biological age increases it places us at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, immune disfunction metabolic disorders and other age-related conditions, it stands to reason that a reduced biological age which have the beneficial effects of lowering our risk in each of these areas.

As regions in the world are on the brink of war, with the concomitant increase in stress it causes, not only for those immediately effected but also for their friends, family and loved ones around the world, it is only fitting that mental health is a prime concern on this World Mental Health Day.

Beyond the stress of war, many of us are going through extreme life challenges causes undue stress in our lives. While we may recognize and acknowledge that we are feeling stressed, we may not fully appreciate the impact it has, on our own health and wellbeing in the immediate and long-term but also how it manifests in our relationships with others.

On this World Mental Health Day, please reach out to someone who may be suffering from undue stress which takes its toll on their health and well-being. A kind word or gesture, a friendly ear, or an act of good will or a small act of kindness, if even only momentarily, can go a long way in offering comfort and easing stress. It can not only help them, but small acts of kindness have been proven to affect happiness and wellbeing for the giver as well as the recipient.

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