Own Your Health!

(Editor’s note: The full event video and more photos are available on IBREA Foundation’s Facebook page.)

We tend to see a doctor at the last possible moment — when we feel we’re too sick to brave the morning commute, or when we have to be rushed to the ER. If we’re feeling depressed, we usually just hope we can feel better soon … or may not give it any thought at all. Yet, our physical and mental health are much more closely intertwined than we think. What if we embraced this knowledge and took steps to stay healthy, to prevent sickness and despair before they happened?

IBREA FOUNDATION’s seminar “OWN YOUR HEALTH: Making Mindful Choices At Any Age,” is a good place to start. Co-sponsored by Brain World and held last Tuesday, February 27 at the Alfred Lerner Hall of Columbia University from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with a panel of speakers in the fields of mental health and neuroscience, the conference demonstrated how important good mental health is to our overall well-being. Featured speakers included the World Health Organization’s New York office Executive Director, Dr. Nata Menabde; trauma expert and NYU Professor of Psychiatry, Dr. Glenn Saxe; the Medical Director of the Harlem Hospital and Associate Dean of Columbia University, Dr. Maurice Wright; Director of the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Laboratory at Columbia University, Dr. Nim Tottenham; and as the keynote speaker, IBREA’s founder, expert in mind-body training methods, and New York Times best-selling author, Mr. Ilchi Lee.

The afternoon presentation, held amid unseasonably warm weather, shed some light on some of the more intriguing discoveries in neuroscience, and left its participatory audience an encouraging message on improving not only their lives but their communities as well. It provided insight and direct experience related to taking responsibility of our health and mental well-being from a young age to our elderly years. It’s never too soon, or too late, to take care of your entire well-being. That was the conference’s main take-away.

Dr. Nata Menabde opened the panel with some eye-opening remarks, citing some of the mental health statistics such as depression being a prominent mental disorder that is growing and in 2030 can become the leading cause of disability, and other severe mental health disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder affecting almost 40 percent of the adult population. Most strikingly, she highlighted a steep correlation between mental disorders and premature death in developing nations, roughly 10 to 20 years less on average, though often due to other things like cardiovascular diseases, and more likely to die of unnatural causes such as suicide or homicide.

“The linkage is clear,” she warns: “Without mental health, there is no other health.” However, only a a striking 3 percent of government budgets in average is dedicated to mental health. These findings were used in 2015 when the UN developed its current global agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals — not only Goal Number 3, which directly focuses on health and mental wellbeing, but all other goals focusing on other issues such as poverty, economy or environment – as they all find a link with health. The WHO, she emphasized, is prioritizing mental health, and has developed a wide variety of action plans. The year 2018 will feature “depression” as the main topic of discussion, against which WHO promotes not only pharmacological strategies but more importantly, socio-emotional, destigmatizing, and grassroots interventions.

Dr. Maurice Wright, MD, spoke of the importance that evidence-based medicine has on creating public policy. The director of Harlem Hospital Center, he has worked with city administrators to renovate and develop patient-centered methods and educational programs that address city health and hospital standards — a move he hopes will foster a family-like atmosphere where people take the incentive of taking care of each other and showing concern for each other’s health, encouraging people to eat healthier and exercise more.

(Editor’s note: The full event video and more photos are available on IBREA Foundation’s Facebook page.)

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