the new imagination of mental health

The World Health Organization says mental health disorders are responsible for more disability in developed nations than ANY other health problem. The paradigm of mental wellness is slowly shifting to be more inclusive of various cultures, age groups, and even indigenous wisdom to some degree.  

The traditional perspective of mental health is being challenged by movements and policies alike. Ideally, this shift would happen at a much quicker rate, and would follow the trend of dissolving mental health stigma around the world.  

To tackle mental health on a deeper level, we first start with individual responsibility. A tiny shift in our daily mental activities is all that’s needed to think beyond instant gratification and to release the bond from the habit of quick-fix comforts. 

Second, we begin to question the sole reliance of raising an entire generation on the nuclear family. Though the 2 parent/1.5 child model is not inherently problematic, it shouldn’t be sanctified as the only healthy norm for upbringing. What benefits could we glean from integrating a more communal, village mindset to support the nuclear family structure? In other words, is there a way to integrate multiple generations and types of people living in close proximity all helping each other based on their personal skillsets? 

No doubt this shift would initially require a lot of trust and re-shaping of our lifestyles, but eventually it would take the pressure off of single or even two parent homes. It would also help us re-invent ways to escape aspects of modern lifestyle that are no longer working or sustainable. And ultimately, it would help orient our minds to go back to our ancestral roots that have always intuitively blended with the natural world.  

Third, we need a revolution in our education system. Currently, the majority of public schools in the U.S. are intimately impacted by economic disparity. What might be even more problematic is that the vast majority of our top universities, private academic institutions, and public K-12 systems are mostly regurgitating the same information, dismissing diversity of thought, and eschewing critical thinking altogether.  

This level of academic incest stuns our natural proclivity for creativity and an honest investigation of our world. And all for what? Prestige? The illusion of safety? Or is it for the maintenance of neat little rows of normative, factory-built thinking? Waldorf and Montessori schools seem to be doing something right, but unfortunately those options are, for the most part, reserved for privileged communities. 

Fortunately, mental health is becoming a more widespread topic of discussion. There is more digital content about the importance of mental wellness than ever before, and this is impacting everyday conversations in a way that was previously unimaginable.  

Mental health is quickly becoming the focus of marketing and branding campaigns, for better or worse. But how politicized has it become? Especially as a talking point for the proverbial tug-o-war between the partisan divide? Again, for better or worse – but at the very least people are starting to discuss what was previously relegated to “experts” and “professionals”. People are slowly taking accountability for seeking knowledge and creating wholeness within themselves, and for each other. 

And that is precisely what it’s all about. Responsibility. Personal ethics. Simply talking to our friends and family about the stuff that matters. The small circle of impact from each participating person will then ripple into the local community, and then expand larger and further into the bigger circles: cities, nations, and the global arena. 

This is what we call “doing the work”. It is a matter of life in the most fundamental sense. How sweet does it feel when we are doing the work we know we are meant to do? Maybe we’ll even learn to enjoy the process… 

2 thoughts on “the new imagination of mental health”

  1. Thank you Jaspr for this birds’ eye view of our attitudes about families, communities and how we situate our vulnerabilities. It’s a matter of survival to share our burdens in this accelerating rate of societal change. There is a worrisome trend to normalize severe (psychotic) mental illness in an effort to minimize stigma. Severely ill people often lack insight and are at peril if we don’t protect and treat them. May our compassion and courage extend to the most vulnerable of us. C

    • Carol,

      I appreciate your ability to hold both nuance and a big-picture lens to the issues underpinning all of us: family, community, health, and erasing bias/stigma wherever necessary. As you’ve said, in an effort to correct the previous imbalance in power and social constructs, the pendulum swing in the opposite direction is seen in so many areas currently, from mental health labels, identity pronouns, political affiliation, justice and power, and the list goes on…

      I second your call towards compassion and courage, to support, guide, and include all of our community in the most conscious, sacred, and humane way.


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