Why Mental and Physical Health are Interrelated

In the pursuit of overall wellness, a person’s journey must collectively address and achieve effective mental and physical health.  While the mind and body are often viewed as separate, the two are actually related, meaning exhibiting good mental health can positively affect one’s physical well-being.  Conversely, poor mental health can negatively impact one’s physical stability.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is defined as “a state of psychological, behavioral, and emotional well-being in which an individual realizes his or her abilities to cope with the normal stresses of life.”


Author Collin Mays, in his new book, Losing it for Good…The Ultimate Guide for Men’s Better Health and Wellness, defines physical health as “an individual’s journey to achieving and maintaining his or her entire body and bringing it into a state of efficiency.  It involves reaching a fitness level, complete with the ability to be absent from diseases or ward them off through processes in conjunction with one’s mental and physical state and condition.”


“Mental and physical health are inseparable,” said Mays. “The two must be the best of friends at all times because they are collectively essential in achieving and maintaining overall health and wellness. Striving for mental and physical health is an ongoing process with a series of actions linked to physical and mental exercises, diet, sleep and rest, and being attentive to what’s going on with one’s mind and body at all times.”

Maintaining a good mental state of mind can help keep an individual healthy and, in many ways, prevent serious physical health conditions.  There have been studies that have shown a positive psychological frame of mind can reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes.  A poor mental state of mind can also lead to poor health and harmful behaviors.  Case-in-point:  Severe depression has been associated with such chronic illnesses as diabetes, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more. Equally and unfortunately, suicide is on the rise across America, especially in Black communities, for many reasons.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death of Black/African American people between the ages of 15 to 24.  For teens, the rise in suicide is linked to many factors, including adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence, financial hardship, losing a parent, and in-person and social media bullying and intimidation.

Yet, there are other mental challenges that many Black Americans face based on their history and environment in this country.

“There are many stressors that impact Black Americans on a daily basis, one of the most deleterious being that of racism,” said Dr. Riana Elyse Anderson, a Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.  “Racism, both for Black adults and youth, impacts virtually every element of mental and physical health.”


In many ways, it’s difficult for Black communities not to see and be impacted by the immense spotlight of racism and police brutality.  Yet, regardless of the source causing mental challenges, it is always prudent to seek professional help before behaviors worsen and physical health problems surface. However, people of color, particularly African Americans, often do not get the mental help needed because of the social stigma attached.


“Culturally, Black people may feel like they must both maintain strength and should not air their dirty laundry’ for others to see,” said Anderson. “And certainly, Black community members not only have less access and quality care for mental health provisions but given the reasonable distrust of health providers from medical abuse, may utilize services less.”


Mays agrees, adding how Black men are often more susceptible to the stigma associated with seeking help for mental/emotional conditions.


“Black men may feel as if they must always maintain strength,” Mays said.  “In other words, many Black men don’t want to be looked at as weak, not able to ‘Man Up’ to the ever-changing situations of life.”

When making the decision about one’s physical wellness, regular exercise and a balanced diet are major key components.  Physical activities can promote a sense of purpose in life and create clearer thinking through a sharper focus and memory.  In addition, other ways to sharpen minds are to discover mental exercises such as reading, learning a new hobby, tackling crossword puzzles, or learning a foreign language.  Proper sleep and rest are always essential to restoring the mind and body when done consistently.

Seeking medical assessment and treatment is a major step in addressing physical conditions.  Locating mental health professionals should be consulted to address mental/emotional circumstances.

Mays, who once weighed 419 pounds before losing a little over 200 pounds, discovered the importance of mental and physical wellness working together when he was in his late 20s.  Now in his early 30s, Mays said his book is a guide to help men, especially Black males, realize that the mind and body function as a team to achieve and maintain optimal wellness for life.

“I wish I could have told the readers that I have always known and understood the direct correlation between mental and physical health,” the author said. “If the truth be told, I didn’t have a clue growing up about the undeniable interrelationships between achieving and maintaining sound mental and physical health.  I now know.”

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