As an undergraduate, I took psychology for two years. People who study the subject tend to be drawn to it because they are seeking to solve puzzles in their own mental makeup. I was no exception.
But I was also seeking another connection and answers to the question: what is my place in the world? That led to an informal dalliance with philosophy as well.
I didn’t know it then, but the answers aren’t readymade, and I am still working them out.
An answer I find particularly important is: in order to find my place in the world, I need to be of it. However much I love solitude, disconnection is a dead end.
This has been painfully brought home on the many occasions I have had to visit locked psychiatric wards. Whatever their faults – tedium seems more common now than the horrors recounted by survivors just a couple of decades ago – they can be places where some people in extreme mental distress find the time and space to make peace with themselves. Society at large seldom offers such a space.
The challenge of mental ill health is often seen only as an individual challenge; the social challenge to build inclusive, supportive communities is barely considered, perhaps because it appears too great a task. Or perhaps because it is too much like common sense.
Since this edition was announced last month, readers have been writing in, wishing to contribute on this theme. Sadly, we were fully commissioned by then, but as ever we want to know what you think. So do email or write to us.
Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
A young dance company is tackling tough issues through its performances, as its founder Kwame Asafo-Adjei explains.