Since it is Christmas and since gift giving is “top of mind” (regardless of your religion – this is a time of year that gift giving is celebrated – OK, not the retail kind, the REAL kind), I thought about what gift I as a mental health professional would like to receive. And guess what – a number came to mind.
First, I would like to see a Canada and the global society be a place in which people living with mental illness had exactly the same rights, equalities and access to care as people with illnesses that are not disorders of the brain have. When we can speak of diabetes and colitis and arthritis and schizophrenia all in the same breath and with the same considered and supportive perspective then we will have gone a long way to decreasing stigma and barriers to mental health care.
Second, I would like to see us beginning to talk about finding a cure for various mental illnesses, much as we speak about finding a cure for breast cancer or finding a cure for prostate cancer. We have finally developed and are rapidly developing our understanding of the brain and its functions – in health and in disease. And we are getting closer to understanding the social and environmental impacts that effect brain function and how those may contribute to the development or perpetuation of mental disorders. So its time we set our sights on a cure for schizophrenia, a cure for major depressive disorder, a cure for bipolar disorder and so on. We may not find a cure in the next five or ten years, but by gosh the search will take us a long way forward.
Third, I would like to see our mental health community supported and enhanced by coming together of various components instead of those components pulling us apart. Sometimes I think that if we spent one half of the time and effort that we seem to put into supporting pet ideologies or convincing others of our “truths” in common purpose, we would be so much further ahead. One foundation that we really need to build our community on is scientific literacy. We need to use science to advance our cause. We need to use the best scientific methods and the knowledge that they bring to us to inform our directions. We need to embrace the science and not rail against it. Building on this foundation we can work together to ensure that all the interests and different voices of individuals and groups are expressed, heard and included. A house has many rooms, but if its foundation is not strong it will collapse, regardless of how pretty it may look.
So those are my three Christmas gift wishes. The best of this gift reminding season to you and yours. Regardless of your religious beliefs or other defining features. Be well.