Categorization of Public Health Beliefs and Practices

 Categorization of Public Health Beliefs and Practices

Each culture has its unique approach to dealing with an epidemic. Read more about mental health vs emotional health.

The well-being of the body and the value placed on its capabilities are highly valued in somatic society. They see cognitive processes as tertiary or derived (the outcomes of corporeal processes are “healthy mind in a healthy body”).

Cultures that place a premium on the mind tend to downplay the importance of the body’s biochemical and physiological activities. Things that happen in the physical world are seen as incidental or tertiary by these people (the outcome of mental processes, “mind over matter”).

Diseases of the body are seen as unavoidable and out of the patient’s control by elective societies. Contrary to popular belief, mental health issues are not the result of the sick-making poor decisions. They must “decide” to “snap out” of it and take control of their situations (“heal thyself”). There is a shift in focus inward.

In providential societies, people often attribute their physical and mental health issues to supernatural intervention or influence (God, fate). Diseases, then, are God’s means of communicating with humanity, as well as the results of a cosmic plan and a higher power’s will. Healing is accomplished by prayer, ritual, and magic, and the source of power lies outside the individual.

Most people in civilizations that place a premium on medicine think that the distinction between physical and mental illness (dualism) is arbitrary and based on a lack of knowledge. All aspects of health have a physiological basis in the biochemistry and genetics of the human body. Many “mental” disorders that have been misdiagnosed as physical ones will be explained away when science learns more about the human body.

We’ve all got terminal diseases. All of us will eventually perish. The processes of aging and dying are almost as enigmatic as they were eons ago. When we think about these two problems at once, we feel both astonished and uneasy. The word for sickness, “dis-ease,” contains the finest definition of what it means. Subjectively, there must be a mental component to unhappiness. For a condition to be considered an illness, the individual must FEEL terrible about themselves. Therefore, it is reasonable to label all illnesses as either “spiritual” or “mental.”

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Is there any other method that does not rely on the patient’s subjective opinion to differentiate between health and illness?

It’s important to note that not all diseases immediately present symptoms. Genetic disorders may go undiagnosed for many generations. The philosophical question of whether a hypothetical illness counts as a disease is thus raised. Do those who carry HIV or a blood disorder also get sick? How, morally, should they be handled? Nothing is wrong with them; they feel fine, they aren’t complaining of any symptoms, and there are no outward indications of illness. Is there any moral justification for forcing them to undergo treatment? The typical justification is some sort of “higher benefit.” Those who carry the virus pose a hazard to others and must be quarantined or neutralized. Due to the danger they pose, they must be eliminated. This sets a terrible example for the future. A wide range of people, including uncomfortable ideologists, the mentally disabled, and many politicians, pose a risk to our safety. So why should we give our bodily health such a high moral priority? When compared to physical health, why is mental health considered less important?

Additionally, there is much philosophical debate over how to categorize phenomena as either psychic or physical. This psychophysical issue is as unsolvable as ever (if not more so). There is no denying the connection between the body and the mind. This is the focus of fields like psychiatry. This difference is arbitrary, as demonstrated by the fact that “autonomous” physical activities (such as heartbeat) and mental reactions to brain diseases can be controlled.

It arises from treating the natural world as something that can be broken down into smaller parts and summed up. Unfortunately, the total isn’t necessarily greater than its parts, and there isn’t an infinite collection of natural laws; only an asymptotic approximation. Putting the patient in a separate category from the rest of society is unnecessary and inaccurate. There is NO distinction between the patient and his surroundings. When a patient becomes ill, it disrupts the delicate balance of the patient-world ecosystem. As a species, we take in and give back to the world around us in equal quantities. The patient is the ongoing engagement. To stay alive, we need to take in things like water, air, visual stimulation, and food. What we put out into the world, both physically and mentally, is what defines it for us.

Since this is the case, the traditional divide between “internal” and “external” needs to be re-examined. Diseases that originate within the body are called endogenic. The disease is caused by “internal,” or natural, factors, such as a faulty heart, an abnormal biochemical balance, a mutated gene, an abnormal metabolic process, etc. Also included are the effects of time and wear, such as aging and deformities.

On the other hand, “external” factors include the “traditional” infections (germs and viruses) and accidents, as well as problems with nurturing and the environment (such as early childhood maltreatment or starvation).

However, this strategy also proves to be futile. There can be no pathogenesis that does not involve both exogenic and endogenic factors. A person’s sensitivity to environmental sickness might be increased or decreased depending on their mental state. The brain’s biological balance can be disrupted by talk therapy or maltreatment (external occurrences). All divisions between the interior and the exterior are arbitrary and deceptive because of the continuous interaction between the two. Medication is the best example because it is both an exterior agent that can affect internal processes and has a significant mental correlation (=its efficacy is impacted by mental factors, as in the placebo effect).

Problems and illnesses vary greatly from one society to the next. Right and wrong in health care are determined by social norms (especially mental health). Facts and figures dictate everything. Some cultures view having a terminal illness as a badge of honor or a necessary element of daily life (e.g., the paranoid schizophrenic as chosen by the gods). In the absence of dis-ease, illness does not exist. If a person’s physical or mental state can be different, that doesn’t mean it should be different or even that it’s desirable. There comes a point when infertility — or even the rare outbreak — becomes desirable in an overpopulated environment. Absolute dysfunction does not exist. It is always true that the body and the intellect can function. Whenever there is a shift in that environment, they also undergo a shift in form. As a result of maltreatment, personality disorders are the most adaptive response. The development of cancer may be the healthiest reaction to toxins. The best solution to overpopulation is unquestionably aging and death. It’s possible that one patient’s perspective doesn’t measure up to that of his species as a whole, but that shouldn’t cloud the issues or derail the reasonable discussion.

It follows that the concept of “positive aberration” should be introduced. For some purposes, either excessive or inadequate functioning can be adaptive. There is no such thing as an “objective” criterion for deciding which kinds of deviations are beneficial and which are harmful. Nothing in nature has “values” or “preferences” that could be considered moral. Simply put, it is the case. As humans, we bring our own set of beliefs, biases, and priorities to everything we do, including science. Being healthy is preferable since it enhances our quality of life. Putting away the circularity, this is the only criterion we can practically use. Even if everyone else thinks it’s an illness, if the patient is feeling fine, then it can’t be one. Even if we all disagree, if the patient feels awful, ego-dystonic, and unable to perform, then it is an illness. Of course, I’m talking about the unicorn that doesn’t exist: the well-informed patient. A person’s decision should be honored only after he is allowed to experience health if he is unwell and knows no better (has never been healthy).

Incorporating values, desires, and priorities into the formula — or exposing the formula wholly to them — has hindered all attempts to add “objective” yardsticks of health and tainted it philosophically. One such approach is to define health as “an increase in order or efficiency of processes,” in contrast to disease, which is “a decline in order (=increase of entropy) and the efficiency of processes.” Not only are both halves of this dyad open to different interpretations of the facts, but they also contain several unstated value judgments. For instance, why should we desire life over death? To order or chaos? Efficiency to inefficiency?

Health and disease are different states of affairs. The answer to the question of which is better depends on the values and norms of the society in which it is posed. When assessing health (or lack thereof), three criteria are used:

  • Is there any physical impact?
  • Is this person impacted in any way? (dis-ease, the bridge between “physical” and “mental disorders)
  • Have ripple effects on society?

As for the third, “is it normal” (=is it statistically the norm of this particular civilization at this particular period) is a frequent formulation in the context of mental health.

Illness has to be given a face again. By imposing the claims of the precise sciences on matters of health, we have reduced both the sick and the healer to mere objects, while completely ignoring what cannot be measured: the human mind and soul.

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