Rethinking Mental Illness: We Must Move Past The Asylum Days

Rethinking Mental Illness: We Must Move Past The Asylum Days

We're drugging our healers, prophets, and geniuses: Is there any other way to approach this dire issue?


Our mental health system is breaking, people. We no longer hold any room in our society for the mystic or the sacred, we have sacrificed ourselves to what is the "normal." The cultural norms that govern the way we are allowed to act and express ourselves are much more limiting and oppressive than most would think. Many won't realize this unless they experience past than the norm, are judged for it, and told that we need "fixing" because we don't operate in the ways that most do.

Other cultures view mental illness as something completely different than we do in our country. In places where they still have shamans and healers (a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits), they are utterly appalled with the way we treat the people that we label as mentally ill.

From a shamanistic perspective, mental illness is what occurs when a person has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. There is a message or certain energy that they are meant to ground and bring here. Think of some of the people from the past that have made breakthroughs that have changed the way we live today. When they were alive, many saw them as crazy, because they were speaking out of the norm. Were she alive today, Sylvia Plath would be on anti-depressants.

Salvador Dali would be on anti-psychotics. Beehtoven would be on Lithium. Newton probably would've been committed as well as heavily drugged for his multiple, pervasive mental illness symptoms. So what happens when we are drugging our prophets, our healers, our geniuses. If you think that while being drugged, these people would still be able to access whatever is coming through them, read up on the effects that Lithium has on the body and the mind.

In many Eastern cultures, these people aren't feared, locked up and drugged because we don't understand whats happening to them. In other places these people are revered, they rejoice when a healer has been brought to them. There are countless rituals, and ways of guidance where they work with these people to identify what is happening with them. Then they are trained to integrate with this energy, to meld with it, and to come out as a person that bridges the realms.

Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé, an African Doctor as well as a shaman to the Dagara people says “Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field." These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

To prove his point, Dr. Somé took Alex, an American 18 year old, who suffered a psychotic break when he was 14. He had hallucinations, was suicidal, and suffered waves of extreme depression. The western solution was to put him in a mental hospital, and cycle him through different drugs until something "fixed" what they thought was broken. But alas, nothing worked. To see if he was right, Dr. Somé took him back to his home in Africa.

After eight months, Alex's symptoms disappeared, after going through shamanic rituals designed to help him align with the energy, as opposed to provoking it, and allowing it to destroy Alex. He was able to participate with the healers, and he spent four years in the village from choice because "he felt much safer in the village than in America."

The fact the aligning the energy worked to heal Alex demonstrated the connection between other beings and mental "illness". After, Alex began to share the messages brought to him by the other energy, and then went to study graduate psychology at Harvard.

As opposed to fearing, misunderstanding, and drugging these people, perhaps it is time for the western ways to change. Not knowing is the beginning of knowing. And that’s what this is all about. This is about asking, and continuing to ask, until we make it work. This is about standing up and pointing out that the current state of our mental “health” care is not human, it’s mechanistic, and it is in dire need of change.

This is no ones fault, but it is our responsibility to move forward and approach this same issue from a different point of view. Im not saying there is no other way to approach this issue, but we are in dire need of changing the current system. And coming from a person that has experienced this first hand, we need help. We need support. We need to be understood.

And in the words on Kanye West, "Name one genius that aint crazy."

Think about it. Question it. Talk about it.

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