Mental Health is a phrase that is today, being over used and misunderstood. This is due to the fact that we have come to believe in diagnostics as if they were truths.
Back in 2007 I studied psychology. As I perused the DMS-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), I found myself identifying with MANY of the symptoms and defining features being described for so many of the conditions. How could that be? There I was, a law/psych student, with top grades, partying like my life depended on it (which arguably it did), I had friends and family and things seems to be ok despite the expected difficulties of being human.. and yet, here I was apparently vulnerable to self imposed labels like ADHD, PTSD, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, BI POLAR, and the funniest of all, disruptive oppositional defiance disorder! Oh please.
During this period of time I was also a student of anthropology studying subjects names ‘Medical Anthropology’ and ‘Drugs across cultures’. Both of these subjects offered a major contrast to the dictatorial narratives of psychology - presenting enlightening comparisons of culturally bound perspectives upon the same symptoms, reaching diagnoses as divergent as schizophrenia vs holy person stature. Already equipped with the appreciation that ‘culture’ has such a pertinent impact upon our stories and beliefs, myself having grown up in a mainstream culture that relegated me to various ‘problematic’ categories over and over again despite being an extremely intelligent, precocious and bold little girl (which arguably lays the foundations for ridiculous Diagnostics like ODD), it followed naturally that I was completely put off psychology and quit.
Last week I completed a Cert IV in Mental Health, most of which I found to be superficial, tick box rhetoric. I was expected to regurgitate the information being fed to me in the manuals, rather than delve into WHY people are suffering so much. At this point its clear to me, that its all about damage control rather than transformation.
The reality as I know it to be is that every single human in this world is necessarily having to balance and safeguard their mental health inside of a society that is quite frankly, pretty bad for our mental health. As Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”, in fact what we find is that the majority of people inside of mainstream western culrure, and especially within the corporate sector, are having to feign being ‘well’ in order to maintain their image, their friends, their job etc - but the pressure of having to pretend to be something that you are not, is effectively enough to create a major split in the psyche of a human, creating and triggering inevitable mental health breakdowns.
The drugs that are being prescribed over the last 20 years are intended to bring about a sense of calm ie compliancy. Compliancy also leads to complacency. 'People just wanna live their lives’ and get on with this assumed standard of living that so often equates running on the rat wheel to survive. Instead of looking at our history as humans and the impact of the industrial revolution (that has a very clear historical demise of mental health) we look to PACIFY the people so that ‘the system’ can be upheld and maintained - making the rich much much richer every minute and the poor inherently desperate and destitute.
Needless to say, the system is not for the people. We sacrificing our humanity and thus our mental health, for the corporation - Slaves to the economic system, it seems that our lives literally depend on the stuffing down our emotions and feelings… and yet - its this kind of behaviour in the end that robs us of our life force - and life is pretty meaningless without the fullness of our human experience.
So how do we take our power back?
There is a ton of unlearning to do to bring ourselves back… well, ourselves.
For one, remembering and reinstating that emotions are natural. All of them. Feeling upset and angry and even outraged are our natural way of reinstating balance and order in our lives - INCLUDING our mental health. These emotions tell us that something doesn’t feel right, and indicate that we need to make a change. Yes, its also true that our stories are often leading the way for our emotions, but that doesn’t mean ignore them. When we take the time to hear ourselves, feel our emotions, and explore ourselves in these ways, we have the ability to see what is going on under the surface… what are the stories and narratives that we are telling ourselves and does our instinct have something to tell us also? We need tools for expression and communication during these difficult moments, for ourselves and others. There are some of the most important basic educations requirements for schools to implement.
Too often we degrade the expression of upset and anger, justifying ignoring ourselves based on the culturally affirmative dismissal of our ‘negative’ emotions! We ignore our own instincts, homogenise and assimilate to ‘keep the peace’ - but in doing so, we progressively lose access to our greatest power… as well as our inner sense of peace. Not to be too dramatic, but this leads us to a mental disaster.
Second, we are not equal. We are all different. and because of that, we have to treat one another as unique expressions of humanity and not categories. Compartmentalising human expression is a way of projecting and avoiding confrontational moments and the responsibility we all have to be accountable to the situations in our midsts. Labels have been used for ease of the system, but they are not accurate articulations of the extraordinarily complex manifestation of what it means to survive as a human and dont do justice to intricacies of the human mind, that is capable of change, transformation and elasticity.
Lastly but certainly not conclusively, we must question this capitalistic system that we were all BORN INTO. Did we consent to these values? Are they our own values? How would we like to see things change? How can we stand for this change?
Courage is a huge element in change, and a big challenge to evoke within a culture that has had it bashed it out of us as kids… so the next time your child is making a stand for something they believe in, whether you agree with them or not, HONOUR THEIR POWER, strength and courage! Support them to stand up for what they believe in. Enquire, explore, investigate and most importantly FEEL. Honour thy feelings, and protect the sovereignty of the human being to have emotions, have autonomy, and activate their inner leader…. because the transformation of this system and the revolution of mental health quite literally depends upon them.
Join Orly Faya on Wild Way Wellness retreat and learn how to bring yourself back to centre, serving you with awesomely easy & practical tools for supporting yourself during times of strain and stress. Think 'therapeutic party' - contact Orly via the connnect page for more info.
About the author
Orly Faya has been an active and practicing creative, painter, writer, poet and activist. Her persistence to remain integral and true to her principles have led her to a successful method of ‘creative therapy’, a way to live life to its fullest, an experience she facilitates in her Wild Way Wellness Retreat
As an anthropologist, art therapist and mental health practitioner, Orly is inspired and activated to support individuals awaken to the power of creativity within and out connection to the nature around us.
With a diverse background in coaching & graphic design and almost two decades of living as a traveling artist, Orly’s insatiable passion for culture, art, play and healing is the driving force of her life, bringing her spark of creativity into everything that she does. Her studio is based in Randwick where she offers body paint therapy commissions, one one one counselling sessions and art therapy experiences.