Mental illness – a change in perspective

At the moment, there is a lot of discussion about the stigma of mental illness, and a lack of acknowledgement of people who suffer from these dis-eases.

During my time in Austria working with Caritas, many of my clients were diagnosed with depression. I would like to share with you my thoughts after this experience and start with an assertion:

‘As long as we call depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. mental illness, it will be difficult to bring about a change.’

The term “mental illness” was coined at a time when psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy began their scientific campaign. For a long time, it was put on the level of terms like “mad” and “insane”.

People who did not “function”, or whose behavior was not according to the rules that society, medicine and science “dictated”, were labeled as “mentally ill”. No one had the idea of speaking about the soul, for the soul would have been something that could not be scientifically proven, that maybe belonged to the church or other irrational teachings. Until today, nobody can say what the soul really is, so it is not surprising at all that we still talk about “mental illness”.  But isn’t it our soul suffering and not our brain?

If we ignore all theories – if we look at people with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, etc., from a completely new perspective, without putting them in “boxes” according to their symptoms, then we will realize that the mind (or/and the body) expresses only what the soul is suffering from. As a consequence, when we treat the mind, or the brain, we treat the symptoms, but not the causes.

It is meanwhile common knowledge that depression and trauma in a family can have an effect on the future generations, and not only I believe that there is something like an emotional DNA.

I have been working with family constellations for only six years, but I can see in every constellation that the suffering of a soul very often has its origin in something that has nothing to do with the person suffering in the present, that it is something that has been taken over for someone else in the family. (1)

In the age where individuality is most important, we have forgotten that we are not alone. We are born into a family, and this family has a history – and we’re part of that history. We have to stop seeing a puzzle as only its individual parts. Only as a whole, it makes sense, and only within the big picture, can the way to healing be found; which is much more than just relieving or eliminating the symptoms.

People with “mental illness” are not second-class people. They are the “healers” of their families, those who have the opportunity to heal the old, uncover the dark and adjust old stories. They are people who deserve great respect, because their soul assumes the task of bringing to the surface and healing the hidden and traumatic aspects of the family history.

It does not surprise me that Viktor E. Frankl (2), who brought back to psychotherapy the dignity and self-determination of the human being with Logotherapy and Existential Analysis, receives so little attention. In Master’s and Bachelor Studies he is only marginally noted. Logotherapy should be taught as a compulsory subject in every study that deals with the human condition (regardless of whether from a psychological or medical point of view). Much would look different then, in the lives of many clients.

Frankl sees the healthy core, the potential, in the human being – no matter in which mental and spiritual condition they are. He has trust in the human being to even deal with the darkest moments.

You want “mental illness” to be treated in the same way as cancer, etc. – and I totally understand and respect this with regard to the great discrimination and disrespect that people with depression, etc., have to face.

Yet I ask you to pause for a moment. Consider for a moment also the consequences this might have. Couldn’t this also mean that you ultimately end up in something that weakens you instead of strengthening you? That you agree that your dis-ease will be “treated” like any other – with medication and conventional treatments? Please do not get me wrong – medication and conventional treatments are and can be of great support. But again – most of them treat symptoms.

The question is: Do you recognize the incredible healing potential that is within you? Are you ready to reconnect with your inner core and heal what wants to be healed? Are you ready to fight for your soul and yourself to be taken seriously as a human being?

Yes, you suffer from depression, anxiety etc. – but you are not your depression, anxiety etc. You are much more. You are amazing souls with an amazing potential. Change perspective – from seeing your dis-eases as problems to understanding their inherent potential.

I once had a client suffering from depression – her inner belief was “I am the problem”. I asked her to write down the words “I am the solution”. It took her 10 minutes to do this, she was trembling, tears in her eyes, and it was difficult to breathe – but she did it. This was the moment when change began. There was still a long way to go, but she always referred to the importance of this change in perspective.

So please go with Gandhi “If you want to change something, then be yourself the change you want to make!” Maybe start with seeking a new name for the suffering that you carry within you.

When others put a stigma on you, it’s up to you if you allow it or not. Write “Heros” instead of “Stigma” on your Facebook posts. Focus on what heals, what is good, rather than what is negative.

You may have a problem, but you are not the problem – you are the solution. All of you have a great potential inside of you. So start with discovering it. You are the heroes.


(1) Bert Hellinger (“Laws of Healing”) / Mark Wolynn (“It Didn’t Start With You.”)
(2) Viktor E. Frankl (“Man’s search for meaning” / “The unheard cry for meaning”)