By Dr. Kala Singh
May 3 – 9 is Mental Health Week and it’s important to remain mentally healthy. I am giving spiritual counseling, in which emphasis is given how to manage some mental illnesses and remain mentally healthy through spirituality. I will discuss some of these concepts in this article.
The modern life style gives a lot of stress, mental tension and mental illnesses. Stress do not cause mental illness in itself, but can trigger it in people who are predisposed. With so much of mental tension in our daily life, it is necessary that we all know the symptoms, causes, types and available treatment for mental illnesses. Because of lack of knowledge, it becomes difficult for people to recognize the symptoms of mental illness. Having proper knowledge helps in the treatment of the patient. Mental illnesses are so common these days that every one must know their symptoms, so that as soon as these are seen in some one, family doctor is contacted and the illness is diagnosed and treated in its early stage. It is always easy to treat the illness in its early stages than in chronic. Mental illnesses cause physical illnesses and vice versa. The important thing is that every one must have the proper and correct knowledge. Because of lack of information, there are a lot of misgivings about mental illnesses like, jadoo, toona, evil spirit, evil eye, black magic, ghosts, bhoot, prêt and curses. I have seen that when some one gets sick everyone starts giving suggestions. Though these suggestions are meant for the betterment of the patient, most of the times they strengthen their belief in these misgivings. There are many people who claim they can find solutions to these problems through supernatural powers. The truth is that there is no remedy for these problems except through proper medication.
Because of the ignorance about mental illnesses, if a member of the family gets mental illness, we consider it to be a disgrace to the family. It becomes difficult to arrange marriage in the family. So we try to hide the disease. We quietly take the patient to deras of sadhs, traditional healers or astrologers for the treatment and waste valuable time and hard earned money on useless rituals. By the time patient is taken to the doctor, disease is in its chronic stage. Now we have scientific proof that like physical illnesses, mental illnesses can also be treated with proper medication.
Just like physical illnesses there are many types of mental illnesses like worry, anxiety, sadness, depression and delusions. We all know a lot about physical illnesses and how to remain physically healthy, but the knowledge about mental illnesses and how to remain mentally healthy is lacking. To keep ourselves physically healthy we take care of our diet, take regular exercises, do regular blood tests for sugar, cholesterol etc. In the same way we ought to take care of our mental health. Because of the lack of knowledge, many people are becoming mentally sick. To keep ourselves mentally healthy we ought to take care of the following:
- We must feel good about ourselves. That means, our sentiments, like fear, anger, attachment, love, jealousy, worries etc. should be in proper limit. Too much of any of these sentiments can disturb the mental balance.
- We must feel good about others. That means up to certain extent our relations with others should be good. We should not cross the limit of decency, disrespect, anger and insubordination in our relations with others. We should not feel that no body is my friend, no one likes me and no one trusts me. We also should not feel that others do not like me and do not trust me.
- We should be able to pull out of difficult situations of life without any problem.
Pride, Haumai, is the term the Gurus use to account for the flaw in human personality. Ego is the interpretation of the word.
The Guru says that Haumai is a serious disease.
The source of evil is not Satan, but our ego. Ego is one of the main mental health problems. Acceptance of humility and rejection of pride, ego, haumai is the main principle of Sikhism.
Maya is the term used for the temporal world and human attachment to it, called ‘worldly attachment.’ Sikhs believe that maya is the universe created by God for human beings to enjoy and is real, but too much of attachment to maya is not good. Humans can make choices and because of that choice, if one falls victim to maya, one cannot blame God. Maya is one of the five evils of Sikhism, including Kam, Krodh, Lobh, Moh and Ahnkar, i.e. Lust, Anger, Greediness, Attachment and Pride. The Guru says:
“Sexual desire and anger waste the body away.” (Guru Granth Sahib 932).
All of these evils are acceptable and good for health when under control, but unacceptable when out of control and are bad for health. For example, love turns to lust and affection to possessiveness. The Gurus advises everything in moderation.
The Guru says:
“The more he tastes, the more he is diseased, without the Guru there is no peace and poise.” (Guru Granth Sahib 1255)
The Gurus stopped Sikhs from using intoxicants. The Guru says:
“Drinking it, he forgets his Lord and Master, he is punished in the Court of the Lord.
Do not drink the falls wine at all, if it is in your power.
O Nanak, the True Guru comes and meets the mortals, by His Grace, one obtains the True Wine.
He shall dwell forever in the Love of the Lord Master, and obtain a seat in the Mansion of His Presence.” (Guru Granth Sahib 554).
All these concepts are necessary for perfect mental health. The Guru says that one should live in the world of Maya like lotus flower in a pond. Lotus lives and takes its nutrition from the pond, but does not get wet and dirty from the pond and lives above the wetness and dirtiness of the pond.
Dr. Kala Singh did MBBS degree from Delhi University, India. He worked as Psychiatric Doctor in Africa for 21 years before immigrating to Canada. He gives Sikh religious and spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to clients with stress and mental health problems. For more information he can be contacted at 604 3275253