May is Mental Health Awareness Month
A reform movement in mental health in America was fomented by a former psychiatric patient whose institutionalized treatment was horrifically abusive. In 1909, Clifford W. Beers, a Yale graduate and Wall St. financier, suffered the acute trauma of grief and loss following the death of his brother. His symptoms were characteristic of a manic depressive illness which continued unabated driving him to attempt suicide. He survived only to be hospitalized in mental institutions over the next three years, experiencing horrible abuse and witnessing the cruel and inhumane treatment afforded the patients.
After his release, in 1908, Mr. Beers resolved to right the wrongs of mental health care in America and published his autobiography, A Mind That Found Itself, wherein he stated, “As I penetrated and conquered the mysteries of that dark side of my life, it no longer held any terror for me. I have decided to stand on my past and look the future in the face.” He resolved to turn his personal struggle with mental illness into a national movement. What we now know as Mental Health America (www.mentalhealthamerica.net) began in 1909 as the National Committee for Mental Hygiene and then the National Mental Health Association formed in association with the eminent philosopher and psychologist William James and Adolf Meyer, the first Psychiatrist-in-Chief of Johns Hopkins Hospital (1910-1941) and one of the most influential psychiatrists in the first half of the 20th century.
William James was the first educator to offer a psychology course in the US. The Principles of Psychology (1890) his epic work is a masterpiece of physiology, psychology and personal reflections that gave us the idea of “the stream of consciousness”. James held a belief that science, human nature and religion shared a supernatural domain that was somehow inaccessible to science but accessible to the individual subject. He set out the metaphysical view that there is one fundamental “stuff” that is neither material nor mental.
William James was born in 1842, the same year in which Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, penned his groundbreaking treatise, Organon of the Medical Art. Dr. Hahnemann himself railed against the treatment of the mentally ill. “One must be astonished at the hard-heartedness and indiscretion of physicians in several mental institutions. These cruel physicians, without seeking the true medical mode for such diseases-the only helpful, homeopathic medicinal way-content themselves with tormenting these most pitiable of all human beings by means of the most violent beatings and other excruciating martyrdoms..these physicians, humiliated due to their medical ineptitude seem to vent their spite against the presupposed incurability of mental and emotional diseases by being tough on the pitiable, innocent sufferers. These physicians are too ignorant to furnish aid and too indolent to adopt an expedient curative procedure.” ~Organon of the Medical Art.
Like James, Hahnemann also noted the presence of this fundamental “stuff” that is neither material nor mental. Describing the principles of cure in Aphorism 8 in the Organon of the Medical Art Hahnemann notes: “In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious, vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling, rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living, healthy instrument for the higher purposes of our existence.”
Hahnemann expounds on the concept that James had considered, that is, that human nature and religion shared a supernatural domain that was somehow inaccessible to science but accessible to the individual subject. Dr. Hahnemann, in Aphorism 19 declares that “indeed, it is evident that the curative power of medicines must rest solely upon this, their power to alter the human condition.” He goes on to say, in Aphorism 20: “This hidden spirit-like power in the inner wesen (German for nature or Supreme Being) of medicines to alter the human condition and thus to cure diseases is, in itself, in no way discernible with mere intellectual exertion. It is only by experience, only through its manifestations while it is impinging on the human condition that we can distinctly perceive it.”
It appears that the movement for mental health awareness was on the rise from the time Hahnemann wrote his treatise. He advocated for understanding the link between body and mind, psyche and soma. He knew that in the healthy state all parts of the organism had to work in a harmonious fashion to bring about cure.
Certainly, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. The concept of psyche and soma is generally attributed to Rene Descartes. Hippocrates preceded him in ascribing bodily functions in relationship to the equilibrium, or balance, with the fluid components of the body, i.e., blood, urine, bile and phlegm. Constitutional states of a person were described as bilious or phlegmatic. Constitutional states are the fundamental ones upon which homeopaths prescribe to individualize a simillum, the homeopathic remedy that is similar to the person suffering.
In this thought leader mix is Plato who taught that the soul is the seat of the moral self manifesting as a tripartite of the reason, the spirit and the desiring parts. Imbalance in these causes disease. Plato’s student Aristotle elevated the concept of soul to its essence. He called it entelecheia, which means essence. The Aristotelian view, called hylomorphism, positions the entelechies as the fulfillment of the vital functions of a living being, such as perceptions, and therefore distinguishes that which animates us, dynamis, wesen, spirit-like forces as Hahnemann called it, from a non-living being.
At this point in time Western medicine is realizing that tissues, organs, systems do not work in isolation. Many conditions, until recently , were classified as either physical or mental. Plumbing the depths of the “stuff”, the spirit-like dynamis, has led modern medicine to consider the effect of feelings and emotions, trauma, grief and loss on disease states such as the bi-polar illness that Mr. Beers suffered after the death of his brother. We have now identified Post Traumatic Stress and its relationship to the whole person suffering pain in both the mental and physical bodies. And yes, awareness that we suffer in spirit as well. The prevailing conceptualization of this totality in healing is known as wholistic or holistic.
Daniel J. Benor, Wholistic Psychotherapist (Canada), MD ABIHM (US), addresses this beautifully in his book Spiritual Healing:Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution. The abstract states” Homeopathy in its fullest application is a wholistic therapy - addressing body, emotions, mind, relationships and spirit. By addressing every aspect of a person’s being, the whole person is harmonized within himself and within the context of his relationships with other people and the world beyond. This is the truest form of health and healing. Within this framework, a person is able to live unstressed on any level of his existence and also has the tools with which to address any challenges in his life. Within this framework, mental health is an integrated aspect of wholistic health.”
Addressing the connection between physical problems and their origin in emotional traumas, as Mr. Beers suffered, is the work of the brilliant Jungian psychotherapist and homeopath, Edward Whitmont. In his book, The Alchemy of Healing:Psyche and Soma, Whitmont points out that correspondences between remedies and dis-ease may be metaphoric as well as symptomatic. According to Homeopathy and Mental Health Care : Integrative Practice, Principles and Research , “He gives the example of metallic gold ( Aurum Metallicum). Part of its potency as a remedy may lie in the correspondence of gold with the sun. Intuitively, both gold and the sun are associated with the human heart. Homeopathic gold is indicated as a treatment for excesses in expressions of personality traits, as in an over-scrupulous conscience, a tendency to focus on darker sides of issues and problems, and in vulnerabilities to burnout and tendencies to black depressions. Homeopathic applications of gold include the treatment of disorders of the heart, circulation, bones and joints.”
In the popular vein of exploring the role of consciousness in healing, Whitmont discusses the collective unconscious and proposed that we can best understand the human condition and homeopathic treatment as manifestations of a holographic universe, in which every living and non-living thing is interconnected with every other thing through subtle and intricate dimensions of existence. He says: “ Homeopathic remedies, whether based on animate or inanimate matter, restore the innate patterns of people whose physical, psychological or spiritual order has gone awry.”
Restoration then, ought to be demonstrated in outcomes. Indeed, the literature is replete with cases from practitioners and testimonials from patients on the transformative nature of their encounter with homeopathic medicine. After experiencing the action of a homeopathic medicine on my son’s reactive airway disease, I exclaimed, “It’s like falling in love! I want to shout it from the rooftops!” Indeed, others had a similar experience. Constantine Hering, MD, known as the Father of American Homeopathy,(1820), was a convert from allopathic medicine. Following his encounter with the effectiveness of homeopathy in his clinical practice, he exclaimed”...Success came everywhere. I almost thought I could raise the dead.”
The Homeopathic Healing Process, Transformational Outcomes, and the Patient-Provider Relationship (Chap. 2 Homeopathy and Mental Health Care) is a rich compendium of research that summarizes the nature of transformational change from the broader literature and the perspective of homeopathy. It describes and document through evidence-based research what both providers and patients often express as a sense of amazement and awe when they see and/or experience the profound and comprehensive changes that homeopathic treatment can initiate. Some of these illustrated by Miller, WR Quantum Change: When Epiphanies and Sudden Insights Transform Ordinary Lives, include: (a) change that went beyond change in a particular behaviour or characteristic - “everything” changes; (b) release from emotional patterns that were negative and longstanding; (c) an enduring sense of peace, calm and hope; (d) changes in core values and priorities; (e) increased clarity of values and life’s purpose; (f) sudden changes in longstanding behavioural patterns, including a release from addictions; (g) profound changes in the nature of and desire for relationships with others; (h) emotional detachment from harmful and negative interpersonal interactions; (i) deep individual sense of spirituality beyond religiosity to a personal commitment; and (j) commitment to a broader purpose and to the world in general.
In this month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month, I introduce you to this body of information, my dear colleagues, which bears awareness when plumbing the depths of mental health and should contribute greatly to following the “stream of thought” that William James alluded to, toward the healing of the whole person.
The physician’s highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy, to cure, as it is called.
The highest ideal of cure is the rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health; that is, the lifting and annihilation of the disease in its entire extent in the shortest, most reliable, and least disadvantageous way, according to clearly realizable principles. - Aph.1-2 Organon of the Medical Art
(Reprinted from my article in IP.com May 20118)