Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mental Health - How Crazy Are You?

We are all crazy - in someone else's eyes, and judgement!

We tend to think of mental illness as a description of profound psychiatric problems with a specific diagnosis, as categorized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. These diagnoses usually have a corresponding pharmaceutical drug, or cocktail of drugs, as 'treatment' - although other methods such as Electro-Convulsive-Therapy still exist.

We have come a long way from the bedlam or asylum days of the past and yet mental illness is still rife in every society.

Lack of basic needs, such as adequate nutrition, care, shelter and education; and prolonged drug and alcohol use, and exposure to violent traumas, all exacerbate the onset and ongoing state of mental illness. Sadly these factors are common everyday experiences for a large and neglected sector of our society.

In recent days (March 2012) news reports in Britain have spoken of the intentional torture and murder of children by relatives who believed them to be witches who are 'possessed by evil spirits'. This seems crazy to most of us, and yet is a prevailing belief in parts of Africa.

Cultural differences bring with them beliefs and behaviours that others cultures judge as 'crazy'.

We live in a crazy world, where, surely all of the following could be deemed to be insane/crazy;

Racism - and discrimination, oppression and violence against another person, simply because their ancestors originated from a different continent. According to the experts, we ALL originated from East Africa anyway!

Homophobia - and violence against a person who has different preferences and needs.

Fundamentalist religions - whose followers threaten death to those who do not follow their code of behaviour and societal norms; or to those they deem as having insulted a prophet or leader.

Cultural norms - such as the stoning of women accused of adultery, the chopping off of a thief's hand, honour killing, and arranged marriages.

Slavery - the domination of, and cruelty towards, another human being.

Human trafficking and exploitation

Female circumcision forced upon young girls

Preventable diseases and poverty - whilst wealth exists elsewhere in the country.

Corporate greed - and the psychopathic personality traits of the few who control the flow of wealth in Western society.

Cruelty to children - particularly in the 'feral underclass', as they have been described in the media; children taught to cage-fight with one another for the 'entertainment' of the so-called Adult spectators.

Paedophilia.

Foreign aid - sent to countries with already enough wealth of their own for Space programs, or weapons designed and intended for war.

Destruction of much of the planet - fuelled by selfishness, greed, ignorance and arrogance.

Cruelty to animals - dog-fighting, badger baiting, fox-hunting; and 'festivals' where animals are sacrificed for 'pleasure/fun'.

Gender selection - the killing of newborns because they are the 'wrong' gender.

Huge Government waste - Unnecessary Quangos, consultants, independent reports/enquiries; moth-balled projects, and outright fraud.

Prohibition of contraceptives - by certain religious 'leaders' despite the prevalence of AIDS, HIV, Sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Space travel - whilst people are starving and without basic medical care.

Excessive Legislation - such as Health and Safety rulings which have resulted in death (the recent media reports regarding emergency services being unwilling, due to the prevailing Health and Safety rules, to rescue a person who drowned in a few inches of water.)

Cyber-bullying.

HOW CRAZY ARE ALL OF THESE?!

They all show a lack of empathy, compassion, care or concern for the health, safety of well-being of others.

In some of the examples above, there is also a 'projection' of badness onto a 'victim', be it an individual, group, class, or culture/society. This projection is then used as a form of justification for, and a normalising of, crazy and cruel behaviours.

This is accompanied by a ruthless selfishness that says - "I matter more than you, I have the right to use and damage/destroy you."

We become de-sensitized to much of what we hear about in the world, because we simply cannot absorb it all and cannot do anything to prevent such crazy things from happening.

Having worked as a psychotherapist with some individuals who have committed assaults, even murder; and having all too often heard of intense cruelty having been inflicted upon a vulnerable child, by a parent/caretaker; I wonder why we don't scan the brains of the perpetrators and find out 'why' they do what they do - and then to give them the effective treatment, wherever it is possible, for those areas of the brain that are just not working properly.

The behaviours of such people, with deficits in their brain's functioning capacity, has far-reaching consequences.

Babies are born to parents who's brains are not fully functioning; and this is passed on to the baby; as well as inadequate nutrition to enable the baby's brain to develop properly. Damaged children become damaged adults who find other damaged adults and pass on their damage to their offspring...and the cycle continues.

Most people exhibit neuroses of some sort, as well as mild 'personality disorder' traits. These may go unnoticed in the crazy world that we all inhabit.

So, what does good, robust mental health look like?

I think it includes the following:

Emotional stability and self-regulation

Rational thoughts, and an ability to control and disarm any irrational thoughts

Positive self-esteem and body image

The ability to withstand challenges and criticism

Not allowing the past to negatively affect the present or future - by therapeutically healing the past

Showing genuine care and compassion towards children, animals and the vulnerable in society

Having a sense of empathy and sympathy towards others

Congruence - what is felt on the inside is portrayed sensitively and assertively on the outside

Authenticity - being 'real' and genuine, and only wearing a 'mask' by conscious choice and for a short time, for a specific and valid purpose.

Let us not forget that our brains are not fully developed until we are about 25 years of age - and that they then have what is called 'plasticity' which allows the brain to change, and increase neuronal connections and pathways, in response to our physical and emotional needs and experiences.

It's never too late to learn a better way of relating to yourself and to others.

Profound mental illness and retardation are best treated by the psychiatric experts; but for the vast majority of us having mild personality disorder traits and neuroses, there is a way to 'fill in the gaps' - with psycho-emotional education and integrative psychotherapy, and by revising our negative and restricting sub-conscious belief system.

Then a crazy world becomes a little less crazy, each time someone takes responsibility for, and finds the right path towards, healing their own psychological and emotional wounds.