This week, I’d like to offer you a reflection from musician, author, and activist Andre Henry: Why Therapy Isn’t Enough, I Need a Revolution. I’d encourage you to read it, and I’d love to hear what you think.
I often find myself thinking some similar thoughts. I think about how many of my friends are seeing therapists. Like, everybody. And it’s (mostly) really good. I’m (mostly) so glad they’re doing it.
At the same time, though, I often wonder: What is this world we live in, which has driven so many of my favorite people to need to talk with a professional weekly to unpack their wounds and trauma and figure out how to live?
Experiences like depression and anxiety are becoming more and more widely acknowledged, less and less stigmatized. I’m so glad for that. And yet, when people experience these things, it’s still often viewed as “something’s off with that person,” as opposed to “something’s off with our society.”
But I wonder if many people (by no means everyone, but many people) who often feel depressed or anxious are really just a little more compassionate than average. (Which is a gift, not a deficiency.) Or they’re just paying a little more attention to our world. And many things in this world just are stressful, depressing, and anxiety-inducing. (Like the recent Border Security Expo in El Paso…wtf??)
Dr. King felt this. In his 1965 speech Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, for example, he reflected on his recent travels to India: “But I say to you this morning, my friends, that there were those depressing moments, for how can one avoid being depressed when he sees with his own eyes evidence of millions of people going to bed hungry? How can one avoid being depressed when he sees with his own eyes millions of people sleeping on the sidewalks at night; no beds to sleep in; no houses to go into.”
As Dr. King asks, how can one avoid feeling depressed? We could add Andre Henry’s examples of everyday violence and threat to Black lives. We could add examples of anti-abortion laws that have no concern for women’s lives. We could add examples of anti-trans laws, of queer couples not being allowed to adopt children, of teachers being prohibited from talking about race in the classroom. There are so many things.
I don’t mean to be depressing; I do mean to put depressed feelings and other reasons why people seek therapy in a larger context.
I also wonder this: as important as trained professional therapists are, are there also some things they’re doing for people that, really, the rest of us non-trained-therapists could do for one another?
We know that America is experiencing a “loneliness epidemic.” Many of us struggle to connect on a deeper level with one another. And maybe sometimes it’s easier to tell a therapist what’s really going on than to share with a friend. At least we’re assured (hopefully) that the therapist will listen to us well. Whereas friends may be distracted, looking at their phones—or thinking about their own issues, too overwhelmed by their own struggles to attend to ours.
I’m with Andre in thinking our world needs to change. Mental health concerns are often not only individual issues but also symptoms of a society that isn’t working. I want to see our society change.
And, at the same time, I want to be there for others—and to see more and more people be there for others—in that open, compassionate, curious, nonjudgmental listening way that therapists are (hopefully) so good at. I think this kind of deep listening to one another is something we can all cultivate.
I want to see individuals experience mental wellness. And I want to see connections, relationships, and communities experience wellness through attentive listening and mutual care. And I want to see our world experience wellness via toppling unjust systems and building better ones.
I know this is a lot to hope for. But I think it’s helpful to see that it’s all interconnected.
Wishing you, this week, both good mental health and meaningful work toward a better world.
2 thoughts on “Mental health in a bonkers world”
Good read, Liz. This struck me in” Why Therapy Isn’t Enough, I Need a Revolution” – “When someone says they’re living with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, or some other condition, we ask what’s wrong with individuals rather than what’s wrong with the social system that keeps yielding these kinds of problems.” We do this in so many areanas – when kids struggle in schools we try to “fix” the kids instead of ask what’s wrong with they system. When teachers, medical professionals, workers in serivce industries leave, we don’t ask what’s wrong with they system, but decry their lack of work ethic or commitment. And, if I’m honest, asking what’s wrong with the system (and the natural follow-up, So what do we do?) is an overwhelming question that leaves me feeling hopeless and helpless.
Your wondering – returning to the individual – is the place of hope: “As important as trained professional therapists are, are there also some things they’re doing for people that, really, the rest of us non-trained-therapists could do for one another?”
Yes! Such good examples.
I wonder if it’s overwhelming as individuals, but if enough of us are thinking these things – and working together on them – there’s more of a possibility for change?