Sunday, September 27, 2015

Human Rights and Mental Distress - It’s Time We Made the Connection

Missing human rights can cause a lot of distress. Think about what it’s like to be treated unfairly, go hungry, be thirsty, have nowhere safe to sleep at night or no meaningful way to make a living. Think about what it’s like to be disrespected, hurt, called names, beaten up, pushed around, held somewhere you don’t want to be, or forced to do something you think is bad for you.

These kinds of things are highly distressing for most of us. When human rights are violated or insecure, nobody does well. We don’t have what we need to live and feel well. Our survival is at risk in some important way – physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially… We may even be literally fighting for our lives.

Our normal response when our rights feel threatened is anxiety and concern. If nothing changes, this can grow into full-blown mental distress. A lot of time this is what people are talking about when they say “I have an anxiety disorder” or “I’m depressed.”

Intense, prolonged mental distress can lead to even more extreme states. We can end up totally disconnected from ourselves, others and the communities we live in. We can stop feeling like a part of things. We can stop feeling human. We can even stop feeling like living or being alive.

We may also stop caring how our actions affect others. We may look for anything we can that deadens the pain. We may become so physically or emotionally reactive that we lose our capacity to think or be aware.

Once these things get set in motion, they may stay that way for a very long time. We may get called “suicidal”, “borderline”, “addict”, “chronic”, “unmotivated”, “help-seeking”, “anti-social” - or even “psychotic”, “psychopathic”, “delusional” or “schizophrenic.”

Seeing Ourselves Differently

If that happens to us, it is important to look beyond the labels. We need to remember that the root cause is not our “mental illness.” It is not our “addict nature.” We are not 'inappropriate', 'impulsive' or 'manipulative.'  

These surface appearances are merely effects. We can predict they will happen when human beings are overwhelmed by pain and have limited options for how they can cope.

To see the real root cause, then, we have to look deeper.  Once we get beneath the surface there are things we start to see:

Something we needed was missing, disrespected, or threatened. There was no one to help us find our way.  While some people may have tried, they didn't really understand. Their help wasn't all that helpful. Things got worse instead of better. 

In the final analysis, we were on our own and continuing to fall. Eventually, we were in so deep that we didn’t know if we’d ever get out. True, every so often a passerby might come along and poke their nose in our hole. But, as soon as they saw how low we'd dropped, they’d turn up their nose and high-tail it on their way.

This kind of disconnection – both from the things we needed and from other people -- undermined our confidence in life itself. Neither the Universe nor those in it felt the least bit welcoming or worthy of trust.

This insult to our humanity was the real root cause. 

Where to go from here?

If this has happened to you, you are not alone.  It's happened to far too many of us.  

But that's hardly the end of our story.  Now that we can see where we've been, we can begin to see where we are going.  We have a life to live, and we can decide to make it count.  

One life, one vote. Each of us, no exceptions.  Let's vote for a better world.  Let's recover our humanity. 

Our birthright is human family. It's time to stake our claim. 

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