06 June 2007

Mental Health of the Community

In the news lately there are many articles about funding for mental health services, for vets, for the public, etc. But shouldn't "mental health services" really be more holistic than that? Created not just for serving the "mentally ill" (however we are choosing to categorize that in this moment), but for truly serving the mental health of each community?

Can you imagine every state and city with a specific agency dedicated to assessing the mental health of the community? I want to do that! We could assess stress levels by looking at crime rates, job losses, traffic, accidents, etc. And then there is the issue of children and their access to the outdoors, exercise, the arts, etc. Whoops, did I say "the arts"?

For those of you who aren't Portlanders, our city schools are in a sad state of affairs when it comes to the arts. Because of budget cutting--and a portion of the population that seems to think that because it's not using the schools, it shouldn't have to fund them--Portland schools have suffered incredibly in the last several years. Gone are marching bands, art classes, and other vocational and creative outlets for students. Isn't this a mental health concern? Perhaps it is time for those concerned with mental health to take a wider view of things, to see that our entire community produces our mental health. And that to separate people into ill and well separates us rather than leading us towards healing.

What is the mental health of your community? Can you make it better? As a cardboard sign I saw downtown the other day said, "Smile, it feels good."
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