The brain is just another part of the body, but it is often ignored in routine health screenings. That shouldn’t be so, doctors from around the world are saying. Instead, a new study from the United Kingdom is suggesting that mental health should be prioritized in routine health exams that often focus on physical wellbeing.

The study pointed out that metal disorders are the leading cause of disability in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, with depression and anxiety making up many of the afflicting disorders. In fact, one in four adults suffers from a mental disorder.

However, many people are reluctant to ask for mental health screenings. Unfortunately, the longer a person waits to get help for mental disorders, the more difficult it becomes to treat the person. For those reasons, the study concluded that more attention to be paid to mental health.

In addition to getting treatment sooner, being diagnosed with a mental disorder can also allow the sufferer to qualify for disability benefits that could serve as a lifeline. Many people with mental disorders live in poverty because they cannot hold a job and don’t know that assistance is available.

In reality, people who cannot work because of conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or post traumatic stress disorder are often eligible for monthly Social Security Disability/Supplemental Security Income (SSD/SSI) benefits.

But the first step in applying for benefits is getting proof of your mental disorder from an “acceptable medical source” as required by the Social Security Administration. These sources can include physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals and evidence comes in the form of treatment notes or any other documentation describing your condition.

Ultimately, if adequate attention is paid to mental health, more people with mental disorders would get the treatment and assistance they need.

Source: PsychCentral, “Mental Health Checkups as Important as Annual Physicals,” Rick Nauert, Feb. 18, 2013