‘Occupy’ Your Mental Health

by Glynis Sherwood – MEd, CCC, RCC, CSAC

Whether you agree with the “Occupy Movement” or not, by taking charge of your mental health you take control of your destiny.  This can only be a good thing!


The Occupy Movement started one year ago when a group of activists began a loosely organized protest called “Occupy Wall Street”, camping in a privately owned park in New York’s financial district. The protest was a stand against social inequality, and interference and control over democratic political processes by major banks and multinational corporations.


The slogan of the Occupy Movement — “we are the 99 percent” — inspired people around the globe.  To sum up, the 1 percent – aka ‘the haves’ – referred to organizations that possess the lion’s share of global wealth and power: the banks, the mortgage industry, the insurance industry, etc; while the 99 percent – aka ‘the have-nots’ – referred to the rest of us.  The Occupy Movement invited regular citizens to not only protest economic inequity, but also to step into their power – the power to make and exercise democratically based decisions.


What Does The Occupy Movement Have To Do With Your Mental Health? 


Everything! Good mental health is based on the ability to make self-directed choices about how to effectively live our lives and conduct our relationships, including the kind of emotional support resources we select. Unfortunately, over the past two decades medically driven mental health care has become increasingly dominated by the pharmaceutical industry, significantly narrowing health care options.


To make matters worse, the profession of psychiatry, which used to provide counselling to their patients, has allied with Big Pharma by adopting a biological ‘cause and cure’ model.  This approach to treatment reduces human suffering to a collection of diseases and biochemical misfirings that can – the theory goes – be corrected with anti-depressant medications. Unfortunately, these medications have toxic side effects and tend to be ineffective. What this means for the consumer is that the right to access safe, effective mental health treatment has been eroded by over-simplified theories about brain functioning, lack of understanding of the sociological context of human distress, profit motivated agendas, potentially harmful drugs, and the elusive search for a ‘quick fix’


None of this is good news but, in my opinion, the most profoundly negative consequences for mental health consumers boil down to this:


People who only receive medication, and are not offered psychotherapy are being cheated, as they are not learning psychological and life skills to help them overcome depression and anxiety.  The result is that these folks don’t gain the personal mastery and confidence that comes from solving their problems from ‘the inside out’, nor the ability to prevent further episodes.  Furthermore, extensive medical research has demonstrated that – except in the case of extremely severe clinical depression – anti-depressants are no more effective than placebos, and have many unwanted side effects, such as sexual dysfunction and emotional flatness. For Sources see my article Why Counselling is More Important Than Medication


The reality of the modern mental health care landscape makes it even more important for consumers to become well informed, so they can make choices that will truly support recovery from depression and anxiety, and promote their overall psychological well being and resilience.


How You Can Occupy Your Mental Health:

  1. Understand that most common psychological problems like mild to moderate depression and anxiety are not diseases, but part of normal human experience arising from reactions to grief, loss, abuse, lack of love, familial, economic and social pressures.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ with your brain.  Depression and anxiety are usually symptoms that something is amiss in your world that needs to be righted.
  2. Recovery from depression and anxiety involves a simple but multi-faceted approach:1 Learn to unearth or identify negative beliefs and expectations, especially about yourself.  Often these beliefs are subconscious, and are usually – at least in part – based on lies.  You have to discover what you are buying into that’s hurting you, before you can make changes;
  3. Once you figure out what pessimistic attitudes are running you, begin to challenge and replace them with more balanced ideas and reality based modes of thinking;
  4. Learn to recognize and value your strengths, including personal qualities such as kindness, as well as skills and abilities – this is the truth about you, and will also give you the ammunition to stand up to negative thinking;
  5. Decide what you want life to look like and take daily steps to create that life;
  6. Deal openly and honestly you’re your feelings. Try and understand what your emotions are trying to tell you about what you truly need;
  7. End compulsive, self-destructive behaviors like addiction;
  8. Heal from trauma or ‘stuck’ grief.  Go to therapy if you don’t know how;
  9. Commit to building healthy, loving, interdependent relationships;
  10. Do work that you enjoy;
  11. Cultivate habits of daily living that support healthy functioning such as work-life balance, reflective time, relaxation, adequate exercise, good sleep habits and solid nutrition.
  12. If you are feeling depressed or anxious you can almost always benefit from counselling with the right therapist.  Choose a counsellor who is a respectful and collaborative member of your team.  If your work benefits cover medication but not counselling, ask your employer to provide better, more comprehensive, services.  Self help books and groups can be a vital support as well.
Solid mental health is about proactively taking care of the big picture of your life: good diet, supportive relationships, decent living conditions, and right livelihood.  By ‘Occupying’ your mental health you take responsibility for building the foundation for your psychological well being, and creating a life based on self reliance, interdependence and healthy choices.  Bypassing the corporate agenda of Big Pharma and biological psychiatry is an important step in that direction.


Need help building up your mental health from the inside out?   Contact Glynis to Request an Appointment

Counselling is available in person, by Phone or Skype worldwide.  


Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Certified Addictions Counsellor is a Counselling Therapist specializing in recovery from long standing Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Addictive Behaviors.  I look forward to hearing from you and helping you on the road to recovery!