Why a Global Perspective on Mental Health Matters Now More Than Ever:

Loz Holmes

Loz Holmes

A couple of years ago I was volunteering in a refugee camp in Calais when I asked a young man from Afghanistan how he mentally copes having to live in such horrible conditions, facing daily abuse from police, thousands of miles away from loved ones. He simply responded by saying that, in his Islamic belief, “if you’re loved, you will be trialled.” This demonstrated to me the great deal we can learn from other belief systems about happiness. By being open to alternative beliefs surrounding mental health, not only can we challenge the destructive prejudice that has caused so much suffering in recent times, but we can also gain new insights into our own wellbeing.
When we discuss the benefits of different forms of exercise for our mental health, almost all of these exercises have originated from outside of the UK. Whether it be the ideas brought to the attention of Westerners by Wim Hof, including cold water therapy and breathing exercises, that have their origins in ancient Nepalese communities, or yoga and meditation, developed by the Indus- Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago, or popular sports that have greatly benefitted my mental health, such as surfing, first observed in Tahiti in 1767. All of these inspiring ideas would not be available to us had we not been willing to be open-minded to the ideas of communities different to our own.
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In our discussions on nutrition for mental health, we will discuss foods, diets and cooking techniques that have origins worldwide. There are certain foods, including vegetables, fruits and spices, that are particularly beneficial to our mental health. Most of these have been used in indigenous communities and foreign countries for thousands of years, and we have only been able to benefit from these foods thanks to sensible people before us who were willing to give them a try.
When we come to discuss the benefits of sleep for our mental health, many of the methods we will mention must be credited to societies other than our own. Combinations of herbal teas, exercises and certain forms of yoga that improve our sleep patterns all originate from outside the UK.

Finally, I have found that, in many parts of the world, particularly amongst indigenous communities, there is a far more open-minded approach to the potential benefits, and risks, of drug use for mental health. In the UK it seems that our education on drug use and mental health is limited to “don’t use the illegal ones”, ignoring the potential benefits of certain illegal drugs for mental health, discounting the damaging mental health effects of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, and failing to educate people on the actual effects of drugs on our mental health. By studying alternative perspectives to drug use and mental health around the world, we can challenge this narrative, and educate ourselves properly on the benefits and costs. We will discuss research, utilizing knowledge from foreign countries and indigenous communities, that discusses the potential mental health costs and benefits of drugs such as marijuana, psilocybin, ayahuasca and MDMA, the last of which Sam has written an excellent blog on that I would encourage anyone to read. Click the button below to have a look.

Ultimately, we want HeadFirst to be a global community, where people can come together to share their experiences of mental health, challenge dominant cultural narratives and taboos surrounding mental health that remain prominent in both our own culture and those around the world, and learn from each other so we can all have a healthier perspective on our mental health.

This year, we plan to discuss the ideas surrounding mental health we’ve learnt from communities worldwide, whether this be techniques learnt in the UK that have global origins, or concepts we’ve come across on our travels, including ideas from Qechuan communities in Peru, refugees and migrants from around the world in European migrant camps, and local village communities in South Asia.

Where’s Wally: Spot the gringo edition

After completing my final year at University, it is my dream to travel the world and to continue to learn from people with different ideas about how to improve mental health, and share with you their ideas through blogging, podcasts and video blogs. At the same time, as I travel, I hope I can share my own experiences with mental health to individuals for whom mental health is a new and controversial topic, and to encourage an open-minded and healthy perspective on their mental health. I hope that you can all join me on this journey through subscribing to our newsletter and keeping track of our website and various social media channels. Love as always, Loz Xxx

Tunes that sum up this blog:

The Blaze-Territory: This song and music video describes the story of a young male migrant being forced to return to his home country, showing the struggles he encompasses in a country with limited prospects and employment opportunities- it’s an important watch for anyone that sees adult male migrants as the enemy, and I hope it goes some way to challenge this prejudice and help people empathise with the position these individuals are put in.

IDLES-Danny Nedelko: This track tells the story of a Ukranian immigrant who is a close friends of the band, and the lead singer of the band Heavy Lungs. The song’s lyrics take aim at nationalism, and celebrate multiculturalism and diversity. A banging song with an important message of unity, love and togetherness.