Artist and writer Lindsey Labrum compares and contrasts ideas of spirituality versus mental illness in the modern world.

I’ve often wondered how true spirituality fits in with mental illness. In Western culture, if a person sees things not visible to the naked eye or is emotionally vulnerable and/or sensitive to the elements around them, they are often diagnosed with having something mentally wrong. But one has to wonder where this world would be if nobody ever “saw or heard” things that weren’t physically available to the common man. We would never get to see masterful art, listen to beautiful music, or read epic stories (including the bible for that matter) if people weren’t open to hearing and seeing things with more than their eyes and their ears. All the greats are technically bipolar or schizophrenic if we really want to break it down.

Religion would cease to exist if nobody ever believed there was more out there then what can be seen or heard by the masses. It makes me wonder if another Jesus or Moses came back with a message, how would we ever believe them? They would be diagnosed crazy like every other person capable of being in touch with their higher self. So basically, instead of learning from our past, it is in our nature to crucify and deem crazy those who see the world differently.

I understand there are those diagnosed with mental health issues that can be a danger to themselves and others, so labeling them is the best way to handle the situation. Give them a pill, the problem goes away.

But what if we empowered these people instead? What if we were open to listening to the things they see and hear instead of convincing them they need to be shut off? One has to believe that on some level of frequency, that cannot be seen, there is something out there. The world is run on energy. Energy that cannot be destroyed. So who is to say that the things a mental health patient or drug addict feels and hears isn’t there on some invisible level. It had to be put out in the universe to be manifested and felt by others.

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Sketch by artist and writer LINDSEY LABRUM exploring the intersection of spirituality and mental illness.

I hate to use the term one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But this statement could easily define the way Western society views mental illness as opposed to a Shamanistic perspective. What exactly is mental illness? Can it be defined rather than generalized? And if we looked at it through a spiritual eye could we change the way it is viewed and perhaps eventually change the way it is dealt with? In Shamanism, mental illness is viewed at as not as an illness but as someone chosen by God to have a direct way of communicating through spirit (energy). A sensitive soul open to more than the average person is capable of seeing or hearing. According to Dr. Malidoma Patrice Some ( West African teacher, author, and doctor), mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, or crisis, that need to be regarded as such to aid a healer into being born. “Good news from the spirit world” that someone has been chosen to be a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. Two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same body and are now conflicting.

Recently someone very close to me has been diagnosed with schizophrenia due to the after effects of drugs. I have found that when I am open to listening to the things that she sees and hears, then putting it into a spiritual perspective of having meaning, that the manic symptoms fade away. The fear of no longer having control over her own mind dissipates and she accepts the “visions” as messages rather than malfunctions. Working on this perspective has given my friend a renewal on her own life. She no longer fears the unknown with her condition but rather embraces it as her own unique path and as a way to finding her true self.

As a society we must be open to solving problems with love and compassion rather than fear and judgement. It is obvious that great outcomes blossom from great understanding.