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Viva La Mental Health Revolucion!

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Viva La Mental Health Revolucion!

A common

By Orly Faya

‘Mental Health’. Its a phrase we hear all the time, overused and misunderstood. As humans, we are all continually dealing with the complexities of our mental world, inside of a manufactured existence that has disconnected us from our original connection to the earth, as beings who live off the earth. Instead we place all the burden upon the person’s mental health upon oneself - rather than consider ourselves a product of the environment and dare to suggest that the system itself needs to change.Instead, we take the hit, struggle, and turn to pharmaceuticals in desperation. In today’s world, the DSM5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) manual is treated as truth, despite our ever changing appreciation of the complexity of the human condition and the fact that to this day we have no definitive biomarkers for any kind of mental health ailment. And so it is that ‘mental health

is but a construction to define our very natural human ‘responses’ to life’s happenings, namely, trauma.

The question becomes, how plastic are we?

As inherently responsive creatures we are mouldable and more often than not, quite rehabilitative. However, a lot of our potential for healing comes from our will and belief that we have the power. If we accept ourselves as bound to a condition (as distributed so liberally by the DSM5 manual) then it can cause us to form a belief around it. It is also a kind of buffer for not having to just accept ourselves just the way we are, hidden under the guide of accepting ourselves with _______ (insert diagnosis).

One is a trap that is hard to escape, and one is the freedom to be.

In the words of Dr Gabor Mate in his latest book 'The Myth of Normal'. ”Diagnoses are abstractions, or summaries: sometimes helpful, always incomplete"

Back in 2007, as part of my Arts/Law degree, I studied a bit of Psychology. As I looked through the DMS-5, I found myself identifying with many of the symptoms and features that were being described for more than a few of the conditions. How could that be? For a minute I wondered… am I all these things? I felt ok! I mean, we all have hard times and I certainly wasn’t an exception - and yeah, my hard times were often exceptionally hard… but I was winning all the awards and topping all my classes, I had friends and family and a the tools for deep self inquiry. And yet, I could see myself inside of ADHD, PTSD, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, BI POLAR, and the funniest of all, DISRUPTIVE, OPPOSITIONAL DEFIANCE DISORDER. It sounded, and felt, like a joke.

In my first year of Anthropology I had two awesome subjects back to back; ‘Medical Anthropology’ and ‘Drugs across cultures’. Both of them offered a major contrast to the top down narratives of psychology that seems to ignore culture altogether. I will never forget the comparisons schizophrenia across cultures - same symptoms, different lands, different beliefs, different reactions, different outcomes - revered into shamandom vs decline into mental ward. ‘Culture’ doesn’t only have an unshakable impact upon our stories and beliefs. It IS our stories and our beliefs. Mainstream culture that surrounded my Sydney upbringing, often relegated me to problematic child categories, largely because my intellect refused to accept that a person in authority could dismiss me simply because I was a child. This grew into a similar dissatisfaction (fury) of being a woman in a mans world, and eventually a citizen of a patriarchal prison.

Eventually I quit Psychology and went on to travel the world for 18 years.

Last week I completed a Cert IV in Mental Health. Unfortunately the tick box rhetoric left me severely underwhelmed. There was no critical analysis, no exploration of WHY people are the way that they are, or the matter with our own cultural perceptions and how we literally create each other by how we think about each other. I was expected to regurgitate information being fed to me via manuals, rather than delve into WHY people are suffering so much. It's very clear to me, that the mental health conversation at the moment is quite dead. We are all scrambling on rat wheel to support the system to keep turning. It’s all about damage control rather than deep rooted 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 culture, 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 enough to create a major split in the psyche of a human, triggering very natural human responses, aka inevitable mental health breakdowns.

The drugs that are being prescribed over the last 20 years are intended to bring about a sense of calm and compliancy. Compliancy with ourselves yes, but also compliancy with the system that we live within. Compliancy sounds a lot like complacency and interestingly becomes just that. People just wanna live their lives and get on with it, they aren’t willing able or wanting to shake up the status quo. The standard of living is good is good but for many, it also means running on a wheel. Not necessarily for actual survival (although definitely sometimes) but for the survival of an image, status or lifestyle. No matter how we look at it, in our western world, we are all running on the wheel.

Instead of looking at our human history, the impact of the industrial revolution has had on our lives and planet, we are guided towards numbing and passivity, so that ‘the system’ can be upheld and maintained, keeping the rich on top, and the making the poor increasingly desperate and destitute.

Needless to say, the system is not for the people. The corporation and the governments are calling the shots for capitalistic interests that trump the human need to be met within an increasingly disconnected world. The smooth sailing of our lives often depends on emotions suppression… and this survival strategy effectively robs us of our life force.


So how do we take our power back?

There is a ton of unlearning to do to bring ourselves back to… well, ourselves.

For one, remembering and reinstating the ‘belief’ that emotions are natural. All of them. Feeling upset and angry and even outraged (especially at the circumstances of life) 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 let us know that we need to make a change.

Upset and anger are pretty much demonised emotions from the onset. As children we are punished for feeling them, as adults we avoid ‘negative’ emotions and think less of people who display them. We ignore our own instincts to feel and express, we homogenise and assimilate to ‘keep the peace’, and in doing so, we progressively lose access to our greatest power… as well as our direct connection with regulation and peace.

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 be alive as a human, the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the human mind, and the plasticity of us beng capable of change and transformation.

The stories and narratives that we live by often lead us into troubled emotional experiences. 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 difficult moments, for ourselves and others. These are some of the most important basic educations requirements for schools to implement, but none of these conversations are anywhere to be found.

Lastly but certainly not conclusively, we must question this capitalistic system that we were 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? Is thee something we can do to initiate change?

This kind of cultural revolution will take courage, a quality that comes directly out of feeling fear and doing it anyway. It goes against all the cultural norms of maintaining status quo and not rocking the apple cart - but it is necessary if we want to make a bette world. so the next time your child is making a loud, exacerbated stand for something they believe in, whether you agree with them or not, celebrate their emotion, it is the secret to their power and courage!

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 us.

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This is well written and you clearly have done a ton of research, kudos to you. At 57, Im just starting my journey of accepting myself, being open and honest and forgiving myself and not feeling shamed about my past. I appreciate & support your unique healing from years of learning. Thank you for sharing.

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