We’ve all heard that we are in a mental health crisis. But what you may not have heard is that we are also in the beginning of a mental health renaissance. A massive breakthrough in how we view psychological well-being is underway. Our methods of cultivating mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are rapidly expanding.
Check out my recent TEDx talk on this topic. In it, I remind us that a renaissance is a period of time where people wake up. They start to do things and see things in completely different ways. The culture transforms. New inventions permeate society, and everything changes until it’s hard to remember that it used to be any other way. This is what’s happening with mental health.
Here’s what we are learning about the new mental health:
Mental Health Challenges Are Common
We used to think that psychological well-being was the norm. That if you were “normal” then you would be fine, and if you were “abnormal” you might have (often said in a whisper) “a problem.” That a few poor souls unfortunately had mental health issues or disorders, and if they were able to be helped they might return to “normal.”
- 1 in 4 people meet criteria for a mental health disorder in any given year
- That doesn’t count everyone who experiences mental health symptoms
- A substantial proportion of us will experience some level of mental health symptoms at one time or another
- Nearly every one of us will have a friend or family member who experiences mental health symptoms or disorders
- That means nearly everyone reading this either has themselves or knows someone who’s faced depression, abuse, substance dependence, bipolar mood, obsessive-compulsive disorder or others this year
Facing mental health challenges is normal, or at least pretty common. The sooner we begin to recognize this, the easier it will be for people to talk about it, and the more likely we can all agree to cultivate mental well-being practices from an early age, and intervene early when mental health symptoms begin.
It’s Not What You Think
Or, it is not only what you think. Mental health not just in our heads.
It is in our whole bodies – our hormones, our glucose levels, our gut, our energy, our spirit. It is not just limited to our insides – it relies on our outsides as well: our relationships, our surroundings, our communities, environments, society. It is impacted by power, privilege, culture, racism, sexism, and the other -isms. In short, mental health is not just in your head – it’s everywhere.
If this is the case, it simply doesn’t make sense to focus our treatments on a single person, and only above their neck! It’s time to move from a sole focus on the brain and mind to a whole-person (and whole community) approaches to treating mental disorders and promoting mental well-being.
The Good News?
The great news? This new understanding of the multifactorial (many factors) nature of mental health means that elevating mental health is more possible than we ever imagined. Tons of evidence-based approaches are making their way into use, and many of these are free and can be done at home, supported by peers and paraprofessionals, as well as being delivered by mental health care providers.
If you’ve ever dealt with your own or loved ones’ mental health challenges, you know it can feel impossible – like banging our heads against the same wall over and over again. The new mental health gives us reason for hope, and not just hope – but actual evidence-based pathways toward greater mental well-being.
The Mental Health and Well-Being Global Summit
Where can you learn about these? CHI is partnering with upcoming online free summit being hosted by the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation and Wisdom for Life at which you can get up to date on dozens of existing and emerging mental health treatments and well-being practices such as therapies that involve energy work, hot and cold exposure, ketamine and psychedelics, transcranial magnetic stimulation, “geek” therapy for adolescents, trauma recovery and post-traumatic growth, exercise, nutrition, mind-body practices, and more. Speakers include everyone from Deepak Chopra to Tara Brach to Andrew Weil to Sharon Salzberg, Michael Singer, Thema Bryant, CHI’s own founder Shamini Jain and many many more.
Learn More About the Scientist
Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the John W. Brick Foundation, Associate Scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences where she served as President from 2013-2019. She is a licensed clinical psychologist, a mind-body medicine researcher, and author of numerous articles in scientific journals and three books, and an internationally recognized workshop leader and keynote speaker.
Cassandra received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She completed her clinical training working in substance abuse treatment centers and low-fee mental health clinics in San Francisco, and research training in behavioral genetics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). At UCSF for 12 years, she led a team of researchers to study how alcoholism runs in families. At California Pacific Medical Center for eight years, she was co-director of the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group. At the Institute of Noetic Sciences she led a team of scientists conducting laboratory and field-based consciousness research. Later as CEO and President, she was responsible for the overall strategic direction of the organization, fundraising of more than $10 million, and advancing the mission and vision by working with the board, staff and members.
She has received multiple grants from federal, state and private foundation sources. Her research has focused on how spiritual and mind-body practices can improve mental, emotional, and physical health and well-being. Major projects have included the development of mindfulness-based interventions for increasing psychological well-being, and dealing with addictions and mood disorders. Projects also explored how engagement in spiritual practices and communities are associated with positive health outcomes.