Alternative Approaches To Mental Health

As readers know, your publisher writes a great deal about mental health issues – because they are so important and involve virtually everybody in our community, in one way or another.

Today I’d like to address something very Coastal: alternative and non-medical methods.

Mental illness and mood disorder difficulties are frequently best dealt with by therapies that appear in no medical textbook.

Depression is a very common problem for many folks. And while the roots of depression may well be the result of an underlying medical condition, there are day-to-day ways to make life better.

The sadness, guilt, sense of worthlessness, and persistent sad thoughts that characterize depression must be understood as artificial creations of an unquiet mind – and they can be treated as such.

Learning the meditative practices of Mindfulness can be enormously liberating.

With learning and practice, we can apprehend and experience the unpleasant thoughts depression creates and learn to let them pass. We can develop the key understanding that sad and repetitive thoughts of worthlessness are mere creations of the mind.

With practice, we can let these feelings go and, thereby, liberate us from sadness.

A recent correspondent offered a further suggestion: art therapy. And I will quote her directly.

“The applications of art therapy are many: expressing thoughts and feelings in a powerful and immediate way, relaxing, centering and grounding, self esteem building, gaining new perspective, making choices, learning about oneself.”

I took part in an art show here in Sechelt in which all works were created by folks living with a mental illness.

It was one of the most moving experiences of my life! We had writers, painters, sculptors, carvers, and artists whose expression did not fall into any category.

The happiness and sense of acceptance on that evening were amazing. And following up with some of those artists since then, I’ve learned that joining the larger community in an expression of feeling and creativity was hugely therapeutic.

Finally, I’d like to discuss the matter of diet and herbal remedies.

It is well known that mood and food are tightly bound.

High fat and protein diets, as well as those characterized by high levels of cheap carbohydrates, are not good – for anybody. Yet this is the typical food-bank menu; and as many of our fellow citizens living with mental illness live on the food bank diet, this must be corrected.

How? Through donations to the food banks that include fresh vegetables and food, and through education about shopping and food budgeting. In the latter case, I feel there is a Sunshine Coast Community Services Society program that might be created.

Herbal remedies for mood problems are related.

I am lucky enough to have as a lifelong friend, and angel, a master herbalist and grower of good things.

Some of the traditional herbs touted for their positive results, like St. John’s Wort, seem not to have any great effect. But others do; and dedication to a healthy life, involving lots of exercise, love, and use of medicinal herbs is – as far as I’m concerned – the best way to go.

Together, as a community with different views of health and happiness, we can do it.


1 Comment

  1. Great article, Hugh! My friend Laurie Bloom is a huge contributor to the local Food Bank via organic produce grown on her farm! And I totally agree that artistic creativity as a form of therapy is immeasurably helpful. One important caution: be mindful of your own essential boundaries when you’re experiencing vulnerable times in your life or mind. Predators can sense vulnerability a mile away when folks are in distress, and some of these may come running to ‘help’ in ways that are ultimately destructive to you, while meeting their own needs for power and control. My humble and hard-learned advice to add to the pot is: reach out, but reach IN, too, with mindfulness and as much self-love in action every day as you can give yourself. Be your own best friend, and at the same time be open to ways you can enhance connection both with yourself and with genuinely caring others. (By the way, I have a little belated birthday book for you!)

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