03/21/07 — Doctor shares mental health tips

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Doctor shares mental health tips

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 21, 2007 1:50 PM

Longevity, health and happiness go hand-in-hand, psychiatrist Alton Anderson of Wilson said Tuesday.

"I don't want to live long unless I can have health and happiness to go with it," he told nearly 60 people gathered in the Cherry Hospital Conference Center for the Mental Health Association's first lunch-and-learn session of the spring.

Many of those attending the session were Cherry Hospital or O'Berry Center employees, said Amy Roux, Mental Health Association director. Others were family members of people with mental problems or disabilities.

Anderson told the group there are 10 keys to good mental health, and the most important is building interpersonal relationships.

Psychiatrists have found that social isolation can take nine years off your life, Anderson said.

Just being married can give you five extra years, he said.

Researchers also found that avoiding second-hand smoke can take five years off your life.

"It limits your social interaction," Anderson said.

Some of the keys to good mental health are factors you cannot control, like who your parents are, where you were born and where you receive your education.

But at a certain point in your life, Anderson said, you are going to have the ability to determine your future. It doesn't matter if you're from a trailer park or the rich side of town, he said, you can take charge of your life.

Stress management is also one of the keys to good mental health.

Anderson said he learned not to stress over factors he can't control.

Another key is spiritual belief.

"Everybody needs a spiritual system that carries them through the toughest times, " he said.

Taking care of your health is vital to keeping good mental health. Being chronically ill wears down a person's mental state, Anderson said.

Self-analysis and self-regulation are also crucial, and they are also factors you can control, he said.

"Self-regulation says you look at the long term and, at each juncture, you re-evaluate and you make changes," Anderson said.