The other night I went to a showing of CrazyWise, the documentary by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson. They examined the question of why the recovery rate for mental illness in industrial countries is one third, and in developing countries two thirds? Think about that for a moment. All our medications and skilled providers plus billions of dollars is not working!
Often what we see in the US as mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or hearing voices, is seen as a calling in other countries - an experience to learn more about yourself. It might mean that you will become a healer because to understand yourself you have to understand the fundamental nature of being human. Within the countries with higher recovery success rates, the people in the person's community will connect with them. Again, let’s think about this for a moment, when a person is struggling their community comes together or someone experienced wants to be curious with that person about what they might need to understand about their self. They offer connection and compassion.
Part of the problem in the western world is that we are in denial about the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Events (ACE). In some communities, it's above 50%. An adverse childhood event is an event that is beyond the comprehension of a child (abuse, neglect, divorce, illness, addiction). Really these are beyond the comprehension of adults as well, but for children, it threatens their nervous system in a way that can set a person up for mental illness, addictions, and physical health challenges such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
What I loved about CrazyWise is that the movie is not saying that medications are bad. They are suggesting that the path forward is connection. Rather than labeling someone in crisis as ill, let’s think about how to get that individual more connected. Evidence-based studies are showing that community helps with addictions, psychotic episodes, homelessness, depression, anxiety, and the list continues.
The path away from mental illness is connection: how we each connect to our bodies, ourselves, other people, and nature.
As an experiment, think about what your connections are. Can you draw a map of your connections? Maybe a thin line for loose connections and a think line for strong connections. Are they all people? What about animals, plants, places, food, activities, art, crafts, books, communities... Where do you put our energy and where do you receive our energy?