Mental health needs a booster shot

nurseNAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest non-profit, grassroots mental health education, support, and advocacy group has named May as Mental Health Month with the motto “Silent No More.” In honor of their great work and message, my thoughts:

The majority of mental health practices are deeply rooted in the medical model, knee-deep in the latest edition of the DSM to provide diagnostic labels and entrenched with pharmaceutical solutions. And much of this is aided and abetted by the insurance companies who look to quantify and contain mental health treatment within boxed minimums.

Current mental health paradigms are buttoned-down and frequently running in place to deal with overwhelming demands. They are also near-sighted and narrowly defined — far too constrictive to deal with a world in widespread flux. If mental health is to serve the greater good, it needs to make substantive, systemic changes as well as expand its scope and perspective with a heightened, more inclusive and collaborative consciousness.

Clearly, mental health services are needed and necessary. As the world continues to change and accelerate with exponential rapidity, the needs for mental health support will continue to increase dramatically. With the shifting consciousness attendant with planetary changes, mental health can no longer be singularly focused, it needs to evolve and expand to serve a higher vibratory consciousness.

How can mental health best serve a changing world?

Crazy is not always crazy. Mental health is called to take a broader perspective, where it incorporates an understanding of the noetic, numinous life of the individual. Spiritual crises and paranormal experiences are not the stuff of diagnoses, but an alternative way of being in and of the world.

Mental health practitioners ask, “Do you see things?  Do you hear things?”  These questions are generally asked to determine if the client (or patient depending on your theoretical bent) is psychotic. But if I, a trained and licensed professional, were to respond to those same questions, my responses would be yes, on both counts. Am I crazy? I think not. However, I am spiritual, intuitive and consciously cultivate my relationship with the invisible realms.

Mental health needs to color outside the lines and value transpersonal experiences and intuition development; demonstrate greater latitude and acceptance for the idiosyncratic expression of the soul; and honor the mystery inherent in the human experience. Dreams, symbols and past-life memories would be viewed as sign-posts, not just collateral residue of a busy day or an over-active imagination. And, of course, imagination, that deep pool of possibilities which pulls from the psyche, would be encouraged and celebrated as a primary response to and resource for a changing world.

It is time for the mental health community to increase its collaborative and inclusionary efforts. Good mental health is good mental health, however we get there. Let’s call everyone to the table who works in the healing arts and begin a conversation — no more me against them, allopathic versus alternative. There are many paths to wholeness and wellness; there is much wisdom and expertise to be shared. It is time to collaborate.

Interdisciplinary research has already indicated that exercise and meditation are both effective means in dealing with depression.  Acupuncture assists addiction recovery and alleviates pain. Pain can also be managed with hypnotherapy, medication, electrical stimulation units, meditation, guided imagery and the like. Journaling, mindfulness training and support groups have been proven to aid and abet, as well as maintain, weight loss. In other words, there is panoply full of multimodal options that are available.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to provide our clients with a number of healing options? We all are aware that not all things work for all people.  With an inclusive approach, there is hope – and subsequently, healing – to be had with mental health wellness possibilities.

Quantum physics teaches us that everything is energy. Isn’t it time for mental health to invite energy medicine to the table? Energy medicine has a successful, centuries-long history, beginning with the work of shamans and other indigenous medicine people. Every culture around the world has its native healers who use their respective talents and gifts — soul retrievals, qi gong, herbs, ritual, community, dance, song, vision quests, fire ceremonies, ritual baths, etc. — to heal the individual or the community.  These methods have worked with minimal, if any, side effects.

Accept the dark side. Mental health is quick to medicate in order to take away the emotional pain and feelings. Certainly, medication has its place in the clinical tool kit. However, it is often overused and leap-frogs the client out of the depths of their being into a place of minimal affect.

For example, research institutions are working on developing a medication so that the soldiers who go to war will have no PTSD symptoms. Their memories will be sanitized.  How unnerving is that?

Pain and darkness is scary, but like certain bulbs that need weeks of darkness before they bloom, so, too, do we humans need to feel the dark side of our emotional selves so that we can learn, evolve, grow and expand our consciousness.

Asclepius had it right: Creativity is the key to healing. In ancient Greece, within his healing temples, Asclepius and his daughter Hygeia provided a safe place for the weary and wounded to come and find healing sanctuary.  There were sleep chambers, incubated dreams, community and expressive arts such drama, comedy, music and dance. In today’s therapeutic environment, the expressive arts such as art therapy and dance therapy are the misunderstood step-children. Perhaps, it’s time to take a page from Asclepius and work on healing in soulful manner.

If operating soulfully, mental health would encourage creativity; it is the antithesis of destruction and animates the life force. Plus the mental health benefits are many. Creative practices develop self-expression, quell anxiety, alleviate some forms of depression, soothe trauma, offer hope, encourage mastery and enhance solution-oriented thinking. And, further, if we view the subconscious material as the key to therapeutic insight, does it not make sense that the less-defended right brain might access subconscious material more easily than it’s left-brained, linear, sequential self?

The new mental health would emphasize wholeness (the root of the word “healing”) and move away from the stigma of illness to the encouragement and enhancement of the soul. It would encourage a whole self for a whole world, where there is innovative thinking, collaboration and a world view where everyone is seen as the magnificent soul they are.

Mental health: Roll up your sleeve; it’s time for your booster shot. The world needs you alive, thriving, and supporting the shifting populace in our fast-paced world.

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8 Responses to Mental health needs a booster shot

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell July 2, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    So very true! Thank you for your addition to the conversation.

  2. Meg June 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Yes! Dance/movement therapy, is a form of psychotherapy that has been helping people for over 50 years.

  3. Adele Ryan McDowell June 1, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

    You’re so fun, Susan. Thanks. Much love.

  4. Susan June 1, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    Here, Here! Well said, as always Adele! Love seeing the word panoply! 😉

  5. Adele Ryan McDowell May 28, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    That sounds good. I am all for collaboration. Thanks for your good thoughts.

  6. Adele Ryan McDowell May 28, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    The overuse of meds and meds-as-the-only-treatment-option are concerning. That said, for some, meds can provide a quality of life that is heretofore unavailable. I think it can be “and and,” allopathic and alternative medicine. Let’s bring all healing possibilities to the table.

  7. Na'ama Yehuda May 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Yes to the need to expand definitions (or suspend definitions, as need be) and allow a more holistic, wholesome, health-oriented (rather than pathology oriented) perspective. As part of this remodeling, there will need to be a review of what to keep and how to keep it. For example, the hearing voices or seeing things–in of itself, it may be inconclusive for mental health (me not a mental health diagnostician, but I think you quite sane, my dear, voices and all … and you know what I think of internal voices as not defining insanity … ;)). At the same time, not all hearing-voices is spirituality.

    Would the key be, among some other things, the impact of these on daily life, on thoughts and reality, on the ability to live in this world, in this time, and not only in the spirit-realm or voices-realm to the exclusion of this reality? Would a key be the kind of voices and images–their tone and information, their presentation and interpretation, their intrusiveness and affect? (i.e. if one hears a voice telling them that they are to harm or maim or that bring them to such fear that they avoid others to the extent of paranoia).

    As for the inclusion of disciplines and healing pathways of other venues to holistic ways of seeing and assisting–yes, absolutely. Here too, however, there’s the need for caution–and maybe part of the caution (though the ‘us versus them’ is not a good conclusion to that caution…), is that there are among those many ways of healing, many that lack consistency or regulations as to how they train, or what they teach, or the self-discipline and ethics they require. Let alone that healing is not a neutral art, and the healer, too, is impacted. For good holistic ways to be truly healing–we need to work together to ensure that healing is provided within ethical and well-trained boundaries, with some requirements for ability and supervision. The holistic therapies themselves may be excellently relevant, but without some oversight on how they are provided, they can, sadly, miss the mark and even cause harm. And there are all too many holistic therapists who shun ‘regular medicine’ or hold their clients back from seeking other support.
    So..collaboration, yes, cooperation, of course. But also open-mind to ensuring quality and training, supervision and self-care among the healers …

    Maybe both holistic healing AND ‘mainstream’ healing can use a booster shot. Or better still, a joint-regimen of increasing health and collaboration, for the benefit of all…
    How does that sound?

  8. Stefania Masoni May 27, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Mental Health needs its own Mental Health…
    The majority of suspects of mass shootings are on meds.
    Does this raise your eyebrows? It should!