World Mental Health Day

October 10 is declared as World Mental Health Day. #WMHDay
Mental Illness is the least understood but most widespread form of disease known to humanity currently. The mentally ill, as in those who suffer from depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others both mild and severe are the hidden sufferers of society. Hidden because their disease is still not recognised to be such.

There is some kind of inexplicable stigma attached to people who do not fit the common mould because their minds have unusual thought patterns and their brains are wired differently. And so their suffering is often silent.

Awareness alone can change this situation and channel compassion and curge to these individuals. Not pity, but empathy.

Depressed

incomplete my life

like shards of glass, broken dreams

bruise, flaw reveal.

by Lakshmi S. Menon 

D is for DELVING into the DEPTHS and the DARK night of the soul


    O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall 
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap 
May who ne’er hung there. 
                                                                     Sonnet 65, ‘Terrible Sonnets’, by Gerald Manley Hopkins

  

The SPIRITUAL  connection: Spirituality has been referred to as the ‘forgotten dimension’ of mental health care !

Many mentally ill people seem to be addicted to religion or spirituality. It is as though the mind in order to find its moorings, clings to a deity for support. And at the other end we have many philosophers, saints, mystics and even psychologists like Carl Jung, talking about their explorations of that mysterious entity called the mind and often going through periods of deep anxiety or depression.  Not surprisingly therefore, many spiritual giants, whether St. Augustine in his Confessions, St. John of the Cross in his prophetic book, Revelations and many others, talk of spiritual experiences culled from the depths of the unconscious mind. They are surprisingly candid and reveal intimate details of the workings of the mind. They reveal how in their spiritual quest for an Ultimate Reality that transcends this world and yet sustains it, they went through despair, loss of faith, and in the case of Carl Jung, might have almost skimmed the edges of plunging into insanity.

There is a very thin line that divides the spiritual and the mentally unhinged. And yet, for those who deal with mental illness, whether in oneself or as care-givers, the mind, that ‘nebulous’ entity and the spiritual process, could be  tools to recovery and a profound spiritual experience. Instead of treating the mind as merely a ‘sick entity’ and piling the body with chemicals to regulate the brain (that is said to influence the mind), alternative approaches that involves the aspect of consciousness, could  be considered. Here is a link on Spirituality and Mental Health from  the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK, giving up-to-date and readable information about this topic.

It was St. John of the Cross who coined the term ‘the dark night of the soul’ to refer to periods of spiritual dryness, where he felt disconnected from God or the Source of life. Yet, at such moments, when one feels lost, uncertain, abandoned, when one sinks into the depths of the mind where there might be the darkness of unknowingness and fear, this is the time to hold on. When one manages to not give in to despair, if in all this delving into the depths, the facing of darkness and inner demons, the hold on the mind is retained, there finally comes the light at the end of the tunnel!

Retain this thought on light; it is the material for the next post 🙂

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS

 

 

 

A is for AWARENESS and AWAKENING

Day ONE: April  A-Z Blogging Challenge

The world has been pre-occupied with physical health from the beginning of civilisation and culture. Yet we take mental health for granted. While enormous time, money and energy are spent on perpetuating bodily health, beauty and youthfulness, scant regard is paid to mental and spiritual well-being. Perhaps we can blame  Rene Descartes, that 17th century philosopher who famously declared : cogito ergo sum I think therefore I am, for introducing in a big way, the mind-body dualism. Since then (putting it simplistically, though it contains a grain of truth) humanity has become firmly entrenched in the physical world and in the pursuit of material wealth, with an intelligent and rational mind being an ally and often the key to all success. In this outward, EXTERNAL seeking of well-being and wealth, the body assumed importance and the mind became a handy tool to achieve material goals. BUT in this process, something vital went missing.

While the mind, the conscious thinking and reasoning part of our being gained importance,  the  emotions, the soul, the heart, the intuition— these unseen aspects of our being were forced underground and were devalued and neglected. Being emotional became a sign of weakness; being imaginative was flirting with delusion and intuition had no voice in the onslaught of reason. These elements of consciousness that were not given their due receded to the background or even the underground; they became a part of our subconscious, unhappy wraiths of out true selves. But what goes underground does not disappear.  They started to subtly and surreptiously manifest as SYMPTOMS in the mind, as various kinds of mental disorders. They began to appear as addictions, as depression, as autism, as OCD, as ADHD, and numerous other illnesses with fancy names and fancier theories as to their cause and treatment.

Where do we begin to start redressing this problem that even today is not talked about much, except when a celebrity dies of it, (as the popular and successful Robin Williams was driven to take his own life), or some other fashion/film icon mentions it in public ( a la Deepika Padukone, the young Indian actress of mainstream cinema who spoke of it in the media recently) ? The problem is not just a medical one. It is a psychological, social and spiritual problem. It is symptomatic of the spiritual vacuum plaguing modern society.

So is there  hope for the silent (and not-so-silent) sufferers of mental disease whose numbers run into millions and are increasing day by day as the times we live in become more volatile, uncertain and subject to change?Hope lies in AWARENESS, both individual and collective. Hope stems from an AWAKENING of society to the acknowledgement and support for a malady that while affecting individuals, affects the collective health of our communities, nations and the world itself.

From tomorrow, I want to talk about the different ways mental illness can be dealt with both by oneself or for others, which finally paves the way to a deep and profound understanding of our inner personal selves. It also leads to the discovery of hidden gifts! Not all is as it looks like !

© Lakshmi S. Menon & VOICE’nVIEWS