There has of late been a noticeable difference in how mental illness is discussed in mainstream culture. The main difference being that it is increasingly mentioned at all, and in that it is presented as the “real issue” behind a slate of dismaying circumstances. This can be seen as a hopeful sign, insofar as mental illness has often gone unmentioned and therefore underfunded and/or ignored.
In the midst of this spotlight, we should be vigilant in asking not only what to do about it in terms of stabilization and treatment, but to deeply question what is it about our current state that makes mental illness such a rampant condition? What is causing the widespread heartache of minds overwhelmed? Overwhelmed by what? I suspect it has much to do with the sense of hopelessness and powerlessness that comes when our livelihood and stability and security are all matters that seem literally out of our hands. I can’t picture a trip to Walmart perking a person up to any lasting extent, but many are the cases in which gardening and other contact with nature improves one’s mental state in a profound way.
We need to ask, alongside our newfound awareness of mental illness as a serious matter, what is missing? What can improve the quality of actually living? We evolved/were created as beings who use our hands and minds to work within the cycles of life. The cutoff, the alienation of our species from the reality of our connections to the natural world, is perhaps just too much to take any longer.