In commemoration of Bell’s “Let’s talk” campaign on this day of Feb. 8th, 2012, we are here today to “talk;” to raise awareness and discussions about mental health and wellness. We’ve heard about the information and misinformation, the stigmas and the stereotypes.  I’d like to take this opportunity today, to talk about the causes and the cures.

Pardon the romanticized reference, but Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” … Well, an inability to cope with life events can be labeled depression, anxiety, addiction, and so on, but it’s still an inability to cope with life events. Why are we, as a society, so consumed with the different names and labels we can subject people to?  People who are already feeling compromised? Why are we having conversations about conditions? Why not have conversations about causes?

Identifying someone as depressed doesn’t solve their problem, it labels their problems, it labels their symptoms. It categorizes and constrains them. Enter phliosophical counselling.

There is still a fair bit of unfamiliarity with respect to philosophical counselling, so here’s the cut and dry version.

One of the practices of philosophy is reasoning and logic. Philosophical counselling is just the application of that reasoning and logic in counselling. Just like a series of premises, or propositions upon which an argument is based, leads to certain conclusions, we too create our own conclusions based on our beliefs, values and assumptions — and that’s what philosophy is; an accumulation of beliefs, values and assumptions.

We face a lot of skepticism in this industry, what “qualifies” philosophical counsellors as mental health professionals? What credentials do philosophical counselors have to counsel patients? Are we really trying to use philosophy to “treat” mental illnesses? And the list goes on… But what needs to be understood is that philosophical counsellors neither are, nor claim to be psychologists, psychiatrists or diagnosticians.  We don’t administer tests, prescribe pills or diagnose.  We are philosophers, we are in pursuit of wisdom and in pursuit of that wisdom, we question, we analyze, we perspect and we reason. We serve as the “outside perspective” to an individual’s train of thought. We facilitate the “working backwards” through thought processes to the initial beliefs, assumptions and values. We use philosophy to identify your philosophy. We are not concerned with the label society or clients have given themselves.

Unfortunately, that is what we think of when the term “mental health” comes up. Labels. Impairments. The connection we make between mental health and impairment is unfounded. When we hear the term physical health, do we think of physical disabilities? No, we think about the physical condition of our body.  So why then, when the term mental health comes up, do we start thinking about depression, schizophrenia, and other “impairments.”  Mental health has as much to do with the mind as physical health has to do with the body. Mental health is the management of our mind.  Just like we understand the connection between what we put into our body and the affect it has on our physical health, likewise we must be aware of the connection between what we put into our mind and the affect it has on our mental health. It’s very easy to say “change your mind and change your life” but the way we think is not a habit that we can “make or break in 21 days“. These are behaviors, conditioned responses, we have learned over a period of our life, maybe even our entire life. These are the very foundations upon which we stand. These are the thoughts, beliefs and assumptions we were brought up and raised on. These are, by definition, our philosophies. So who better than a philosopher to help work through them?

Wheels turning yet?

We do need to talk about mental health and wellness, we do need to raise awareness and discussions about unhealed hurts and grievances, and yes, we do need to talk about the information and misinformation along with the stigmas and stereotypes that plague mental health and wellness, but talking about it can only do so much, we need to change the way we think about mental health and wellness. We need to change the way we talk about mental health and wellness. We need to change our philosophies on mental health and wellness.

Talk is good, but change is a heck of a lot better. Napoleon said, “Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” … ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to go in.