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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Global Mental Health Crisis: A Bubble Soon to Burst?

It has been recognized there is a global mental health crisis.  The OECD has mental health very much in mind.  Countries like Australia and the UK have recognized the fundamental truth that you can't have health without mental health; the mind, after all, is simply another system in the body.  Here in Canada, we have our first national mental health strategy - from a government that doesn't believe in nationalized anything.

That shows how seriously people at the highest levels take this emerging crisis.

Yet, economic times are tight and when there really is no more money to be spent, services like mental health are among the first to get trimmed.  Worse still; on the whole, people still don't get mental health.  The recent CAMH Defeat Denial campaign brilliantly sets out the common responses people with mental illnesses have.

Adding to the challenge - the way we look at work is completely counterinuitive to the way mental health functions.  Micro-managing bosses are convinced that their approach is both right and necessary; they have the gold, they make the rules, employees owe them for the right to work and therefore must be at their beck-and-call 24/7, since work cycles now run without end.  Have you ever told a micromanager that their "management style" is actually detrimental to business functioning and damaging your state of mental health?  If you don't get fired, you'll probably hear one of the defeat denial lines.

Which is why people suffer in silence.  Nobody wants to be judged and know that if they speak out, that's exactly what will happen.  Heartbreakingly, that's often as true for the micromanagers (see micromanaging disorder) as it is for the micromanaged.  As we're afraid of labels or are concerned about ourselves or the nation becoming overmedicated, we simply try to ignore the realities of mental health.  When we do that, we're missing the obvious, affordable but ultimately frightening solution that's really all that's left to us: culture change.

As a society, we need to rethink the way we view mental health - which will mean challenging some confabulated notions we have about identity and self-control.  Neurscience has already got the information - we just need to accept and internalize it.  We need to revamp the way we look at work and motivation.  We also need to understand cognitive development more closely and keep how individual brains work in mind as we develop our next models of education.

In short, we need to stop focusing on curing lead poisoning and start taking the lead out of our water.  This is all possible - we can make our systems work more efficiently, fostering better outcomes - if we do so consciously and proactively.

That's the challenge of the 21st Century - our cognitive equivalent to the labour movement that stemmed from the Industrial Revolution. 

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