I’m writing a book about mental health. Specifically, a story of personal nature, the reasons why I think medication should be the last resort in treating children and teens, alternative treatment options, and—most importantly—how we might optimize the mental well-being of generations to come.
As I’ve been researching and thinking about ways to prevent mental illness (or, better yet, optimize mental health), I’ve been constructing a new kind of society in my head. A society that would be extremely difficult to achieve, but is fun to dream about. A wellness utopia of sorts.
I’m not sure how much of this to include in my book (because people might think I’m crazy!), so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts here and see what you think.
Politics, Government & Business
- Political campaign fundraising is illegal. (To minimize special interest influence on our representatives.)
- Multi-party system. (Because diversity rocks.)
- Restore citizen authority over corporations. (What if pharmaceutical companies were created for the people rather than to make as much money as possible?)
- Establish social business and co-ops as standard business models. (So all people can experience meaningful work and share in the success of the business.)
- Work is outcome-based rather than a specific number of hours per day/week.
- Flexible hours allow parents to be available to their kids.
- Strict laws around use of natural resources, toxins, and waste. (E.g. companies are responsible for recycling products they produce.)
- Airwaves are owned by the citizens and are not used to make money. Rather, they are used to communicate, collaborate, and promote the arts. (But mostly, we don’t watch TV, especially kids.)
- Advertising to children under age 18 is illegal.
- Advertising of prescription drugs is illegal—period. (Like in pretty much all other countries in the world.)
Communities & Environment
- Communities are designed around a city center with easy access to stores, bank, post office, etc.
- Communities are walkable and bikeable. (Cars can park on the outskirts.)
- Residences are smaller and built in clusters with shared spaces such as gardens, guest rooms, laundry facilities, green spaces, etc. (Cohousing model.)
- Neighbors share big-ticket items such as lawnmowers, cars, and snow blowers (very important where I live).
- People feel secure in knowing that if something happens to them (illness, accident, loss of job), neighbors will be available to help out.
- Emphasis on organic farming, urban farming, residential farming, and preservation of top soil and ecosystems.
- Reliance primarily on whole, local, plant-based food. (No preservatives, food colors, chemicals, etc.).
- Comprehensive prenatal support for expecting mothers and partners/families. (Includes parenting strategies for raising optimistic children, nutritional counseling, childbirth preparation, and natural options for delivery.)
- Breastfeeding encouraged and socially acceptable.
- Parents have time to bond with their child and spend a lot of time touching the baby and responding to his or her needs.
- Children enjoy an organic whole foods diet and develop sophisticated taste buds. They are encouraged to listen to their bodies’ hunger and satiety cues rather than clean their plates and snack mindlessly between meals.
- Children are encouraged to engage in activities that excite them. (And they spend lots of time outside in nature: discovering, building, climbing, running, resting.)
- Parents encourage children to participate in household duties and develop practical skills, which improves self-esteem.
- Society ushers adolescents into adulthood through meaningful and supportive rites of passage. (And we acknowledge that odd behavior is normal at this age.)
- When possible, elderly family members live with family or in close proximity. The different generations learn from each other.
- Retirement homes and childcare facilities co-exist.
- All children receive a high-quality education, which is not test-score based, but rather based on learning skills that will help children be resilient, creative, and compassionate members of society.
- Critical thinking skills and creativity is valued over memorization.
- Single-tasking and flow is valued over multitasking and busy work.
- Students are encouraged to go deep into topics/activities that interest them.
- Physical activity is just as important as math, reading, and science.
- Constant emphasis on treading lightly on a planet with finite resources and being part of a global community.
- Children learn resilience through mindfulness, interpersonal skills, distress tolerance, emotion regulation (yes, essentially DBT).
- Students and teachers grow food together, cook together, eat together, and clean up together.
- Students learn basic survival skills (not just boy scouts and girl scouts): Swimming, orientation, finding water and foraging for food, making a fire, building a shelter, CPR/First Aid.
- Music, art, theater, creative writing, dance, and other expressive skills are available to all children.
- Students learn and practice self care.
- Medicine is required primarily to address accidents and infectious diseases.
- Chronic illness prevention is built into the fabric of society.
- Focus on stress-management treatments, self care, and rest.
- People who are severely mentally ill (because life isn’t perfect) get compassionate, evidence-based treatment that is not based on research funded by Big Pharma. (And they don’t end up on the streets.)
These are just some of my thoughts with lots of gaps and unanswered questions. It assumes that most people want meaningful work and can be happy with enough. (Which I believe to be true.) I also believe that unless we drastically change the way we live, consume, and deplete the planet, really bad things will happen. Maybe not in my lifetime, but probably in my (hypothetical) grandkids’ lifetime.
Some of the points above are already happening in small pockets of our country—and definitely in other countries. Other points describe how the U.S. was set up to operate, but no longer operates due to strong corporate rights. Mostly it’s about money and how it’s distributed.
I’m excited about the though of a society that is designed to optimize wellness. In many ways, sadly, it’s the opposite of the society in which we live. However, that means there is lots of room for improvement. We just have to start somewhere and not give up.
So, am I crazy? Probably. Let me know what you think!