Polly Higgins, Earth lawyer and Ecocide campaigner, said an indigenous leader had once told her “only when we face the shadow side, and give it a name, can the healing begin.”.
From my own experiences I feel there is a causal connection between building the resilience we need to face climate change/economic recession, and how each of us face our own inner shadow sides. In learning to become more accepting of the shadow as well as the light in ourselves and others, the better we can learn ways of easing away from rigidity/fear towards resilience/acceptance in the face of our uncertain global future.
With that in mind, I went to the GlobalNet 21 Meetup event on the topic of mental well being. The event was held in the Grand Committee of the House of Commons, as one of the keynote speakers was Kevan Jones MP, one of the first MPs to publicly speak out about his depression and what he had learnt from it.
I had often been to Parliament when working as a solicitor and parliamentary agent, delving into their bill boxes to research into legislation. How different it felt to be going to Parliament at 6pm, when all the human traffic was moving the other way. Trying to navigate my way through the contra-flow I realised how I had never really realised how the temporal structures of a 9-5 job create physical flows which, notwithstanding individual freedom, might create furrows into our imaginative capacity that might prevent the full flow of our perceptions.
Walking through the Great Hall of Westminster it was interesting to see how this powerful institution of the status quo championed, through its tapestries and statutes on display, those who had rebelled against the status quo. One tapestry showed the rebellious barons gathered at Runnymede, witnessing King John signing the Magna Carta. There was a statue of John Hampden MP, who was jailed in 1627 for refusing to make a loan to King Charles, a loan which he believed was illegal and a violation of the Magna Carta. As Kevan Jones mentioned in his speech, 1 in 4 of us suffer a mental health problem at any one time. Is this opening to the full range of our mental and emotional capacities the latest rebellion, an inner as well as a social rebellion?
Another keynote speaker was Mark Rice-Oxley, a journalist for the Guardian who has written a book about his depression, “Underneath the Lemon Tree“. Mark spoke about the myths that are bandied about as part of the stigmatisation of mental health, that depression is for the weak, and that those who admit to depression are finished.
Paul Farmer was the third speaker, the CEO for MIND. He spoke about MIND’s plan for the year ahead – tackling the stigma, increasing access on the NHS to talking therapies and encouraging more people to talk about their own experiences. The narrative of “public health” had grown out of a movement to eradicate disease and so he saw a need to change the narrative to a more holistic interpretation of health. He saw the opening of conversations about mental well being as being the “quiet revolution”.
There was much courage in the room of 200 or so attendees, as people spoke about their own experiences and so opened the dialogue in fresh ways. I spoke about my own perspective through my struggles with anxiety (see About (Body)), how the lack of full and comprehensive corporate HR policies that give guidance on what to do if one is experiencing mental ill health can actually exacerbate the issues facing employees; and that producing such policies could actually not only increase well being but also the profitability of the corporation. He told me about MIND’s campaign called “Taking Care of Business” which is seeking to address how corporations deal with the mental well being of its employees.
I cannot help but feel that, if more and more corporations had the courage to face the shadow sides of their employees’ inner selves in their public HR policies, this would build the momentum for “healing” corporate behaviour so that the default position becomes people and planet above profit.Who am I without this terror that tears me apart to pour out Love from my cracks? Kali Das