What does a world look like where mental health is treated with as much urgency, compassion and care as heart health or breast health?
What does a world look like where no matter what your income, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, education, or legal status you could access affordable and excellent mental health care?
What does a world look like where there is no shame or stigma in naming out loud the daily and personal and corporate realities of schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, or other mood, brain and behavioral challenges?
What does it take to make such a world possible?
Today, October 10, we are invited to observe World Mental Health Day, and ask these questions as a global community, knowing that each one of us in our small ways can be part of the big changes that we wish to see in the world.
There is much for us to learn about mental health from our global neighbors. While in South Korea for the gathering of the World Council of Churches I learned from another culture and heard an expression that understood the brain as an instrument. It was said that the mind of a person with schizophrenia is like a violin with broken strings. I value this perspective from my international friend because it helps reframe mental illness with non-medical language. I can see in my mind’s eye the image of a beautifully hand crafted violin, worn from devoted passion, with yellowed strings frayed and dangling down.
I also like the hope embedded in this metaphor of the violin. Just as new strings can be added so that music can be played, mental illness can be treated and recovery is possible.
All of us, no matter what part of the world we call home, know the transcendent power of an instrument played well. World mental health, when at its best, is the sound of a world class orchestra.