Behavioral and Mental Health - Week 2: A change of parenting; mental health a taboo topic
We've all come to know of German philosopher Karl Marx's famous saying about religion. Religion is the "opium of the people." He wasn't exactly incorrect or unsympathetic to religion. He did rightly observe that indeed religion is at "the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions."
Where he's wrong is in his view that religion is an "illusory happiness" to society's pains, much like an opiate. While opiates enable people to forget their pain, they don't address the underlying suffering, whereas religion places great emphasis on behavior and how to act, which can change our view on our suffering, lead us to action and change our circumstances.
Religion is a viewpoint. It's an adherence to some truth vs a lie, which can have a much larger positive behavioral impact on someone than just forgetting their pain. Religion can embolden many to act - rightly or wrongly - not just forget. And when used well, can empower as well as instill accountability, forgiveness and gratefulness. These are all powerful motivators to create positive outlooks and behaviors.
Fast forward, you might look at today's behavioral health services as similar to religious institutions. They affect behavioral change through their processes and some reconstruct the religious body of members and community support through coaches, volunteers, and a slew of therapists. It's been 150 years since Marx said his infamous words. I wonder what he would say about the rise of behavioral health services today. Perhaps he would say these services, much like religion, only provide "illusory happiness."
I wouldn't agree, as you can tell. While these services in and of themselves won't solve the problem, they're a positive development. There is a rise of such services and venture capital pouring into them. That's why we're hosting SplashX Invent Health - Behavioral and Mental Health. Our focus will be mainly on services that affect behavioral change as a treatment to mental well-being from life's simple stresses to serious mental disorder comorbid with chronic illnesses.
If you're passionate about the topic, we hope you join us and contribute to the discussion on June 21 at SplashX Invent Health hosted by HP and Vator. Join us!
Here's my latest round-up of interesting stories touching on this topic. Sometimes I just list these pieces. But in this round-up, I'm going to share my opinions about them.
Therapies, medication won't help; A change of parenting will!
I pretty much agree a ton with this piece: Therapy, medication won't help teens mental health crisis
It is true that many teenagers are finding themselves in prolonged emotional crises. So you have to wonder why? Well, it can't just be technology's fault though spending a ton of time on cell phones can cause them to fall behind on their school work and chores. It can't be that more kids are chemically imbalanced than prior generations and it has nothing to do with the way they're being raised. It does have a lot to do with parenting and parents need to start asking themselves how they're enabling this epidemic. This article plainly states: "The obvious solution, therefore, to the ongoing child and teen mental health crisis is for parents to stop enabling, coddling, pampering, indulging and cocooning children." Indeed, kids need to fall on their face and try, try again. And they need to do it at a young age. They also need to have boundaries. They don't have enough at a young age, so when they do find themselves impeded by boundaries [aka responsibilities, rules] --because we all know they will face them -- they may not know how to operate. Kids need boundaries, and today's kids don't have enough, in my opinion.
Mental health is a taboo subject in tech
I've seen a number of these stories posted about mental health being a topic no one cares to broach in public, like this one: "Mental health is a taboo subject in tech." The piece is a profile of a new mental health startup. I like how the founder looked after 30-to-50 students and reached out to each one individually to check in on them. We need more of this.
But here are my couple theories on why these issues aren't raised. Firstly, we just live in a fast-paced world, and unfortunately, we often don't have time to discuss such issues and we certainly don't want to bog anyone down with our own problems. Another one is the decline in Christian values, where the cross represents sacrifice and suffering, from which humility, forgiveness and gratefulness emerge. Yet the symbol of the cross has also been looked at as barbaric, sad, evil and primitive. Why would we want to teach our children about a man nailed to a cross? What are we teaching them? Best to keep them busy and happy -- looking at the bright side of life. Fair enough. But suffering is real. Pain and hardship are real. Shielding children from learning that doesn't help them as they grow up, since we all know - failure, pain, and hard knocks are part of life.
Stigma of mental illness in the black community
This piece essentially states: "There’s no getting around it, institutional racism is a leading cause of mental illness in African Americans."
The author refers to a report from 1970, which seems a little outdated - like 50 years outdated. The post really concludes with his call to action: "a cultural shift is needed to foster a climate in which friends and loved ones can seek non-judgmental support for a mental health condition." This is all well and good and I agree. We should always foster a climate in which our friends and loved-ones get support. But what I don't agree with is the statement about how racism is the cause of mental illness. Seems to me this statement just fosters hatred and victimhood. If we want to change our mental health, then you can't start by being vengeful and feeling like a victim. Don't get me wrong, that's a good motivator as well. But it's typically not a healthy one. I think what Kanye West said is a much better solution. Essentially, he said African Americans can't blame slavery for where they are today. At some point, you have to move on and that's a choice. Here's what he said: "T]he reason why I brought up the 400 years point is because we can't be mentally imprisoned for another 400 years. We need free thought now." These are exactly the positive remarks to be made to affect behavioral change. Go Kanye.