our talk of 'mental 'health'

I don't really think there is a stigma concerning 'mental health' - people are talking about mental illness and mental health all the time. In my line of work at least, there are excellent supports for people with different kinds of temporary and lifelong challenges falling under the umbrella of ‘mental illness’.

However I don't think we are speaking truthfully about the deeper causes of mental un-wellness. I still see the issue of depression and suicide framed too much as an individual issue when we need to discuss it in terms of our society's failure to meet BASIC HUMAN NEEDS.

These needs might include good nutrition, rest, intimacy, social connections, time for processing of experiences, initiation rituals, body awareness, and the freedom to 'be' and not 'do' constantly. Some of these needs might even be more important for one sex over the other, given the different ways our nervous systems are organized and our sex-specific histories of evolution in response to reproductive pressures.

Humans are vulnerable to a huge array of emotional, psychological, and social issues because we are such a social species.

Even the phrase mental health irritates me because it separates out the 'mental' from the entire being: spiritual, physical, emotional, social, cultural, economic, ancestral etc.

Calling it a 'mental health' issue is part of the issue - it reveals our narrow focus and our desire to be able to solve a problem by putting it into the neat little box of psychology and psychiatry.

Major roots of psychiatry include the labelling and treatment of women who were 'hysterical'. There is good reason to believe that 'hysteria' is more or less 'post-traumatic stress disorder’. When hysteria was first widely observed and described, women were particularly vulnerable to becoming ’hysterical’ because they were living in societies that treated them as sub-human.

By the time the Industrial Revolution rolled around, men joined the club of ‘hysterics’ too, presumably because they were now also living (working) in awful conditions. So psychiatry very much responds to shifts in patterns of mental illness, as mental illness shifts in relationship to the social and cultural conditions.

I’m not sure how we address these challenging issues of major depression, suicide, paranoia, mass murder and such but let’s at least work to describe and label it more honestly.

Blog Art by Michael Harnish