A friend of mine has a niece who recently took her own life. She described to me a moment at the funeral home when one of the employees interrupted the quiet conversations to cry out, “We MUST stop burying our children.” His heartfelt plea came from a pool of sadness. He had witnessed too many young people who had come to the same tragic end, at their own hand.
I’ve observed this heartbreaking trend, as well. In the past six months, four of my friends have lost their boys to suicide. They were all in their twenties and struggling with depression. One of the moms likened it to swimming in the ocean. She said her son would be doing fine, until the undertow would catch him and drag him under. Another friend said that her son suffered from “broken brain.”
I’ve heard the word “epidemic” being whispered in the wake of these deaths. It is not hyperbole. Psychiatric illness is escalating and has become the number one cause of disability in the U.S. We are addressing mental disorders with psychotropic drugs. But if this is effective, why is the undertow still pulling our kids under? And what are the side effects of these drugs? Did you know that some side effects include “suicidal thoughts?”
A conversation is in order about a more holistic approach to mental health concerns. And I had one, very recently. I interviewed a holistic psychiatrist (who knew there was such a thing?!) for the Wise Traditions podcast and what she had to say made a WHOLE lot of sense.
Dr. Kelly Brogan, the author of “A mind of your own,” suggests that the best way to heal the mind is to heal the body first. Problems with brain function (a/k/a “broken brain,” as my friend and Dr. Mark Hyman describe it) stem from problems with the body as a whole. Perhaps we need to reframe how we look at the issue. Depression and other mental illness should be seen as symptoms of a greater problem, not diseases.
This requires a paradigm shift, so stick with me. Say a child has acne—we can either say “Oh, my kid has ‘pimple face condition.’ Let’s treat it with this cream and hope it goes away.” Or we could work to identify what is triggering the break-outs and address the root cause of the issue. Is the kid allergic to wheat? Sensitive to dyes and scents in the laundry detergent? We are less likely to label our child when his body is breaking out, waving its red flag, letting us know that something is amiss. Why are we so quick to label the symptoms when the health issue is related to the brain?
So, if we agree that mental illness stems from a problem with the body’s health, what next? How do we address it? Kelly recommends dietary changes, detoxification protocols, sleep, meditation, and other natural, simple modalities. Interestingly, I also recently interviewed Season Johnson who helps families whose children have been diagnosed with cancer and she recommended some of these same therapies. Both emphasize the healing power of real, nutrient-dense food.
These conversations have made it clear to me that body and brain health can benefit from interventions that have nothing to do with pharmaceutical drugs. I’m not saying that we should toss these out the window completely. I know that they have their place, and have saved some lives. Kelly and Season would certainly agree. Neither claims that they have the perfect cure for a broken brain or a broken body, but they are convinced that nutrient-dense food is a wonderful starting place. It’s a powerful tool to help the body heal itself, to get the body on the right track, and the mind, as well.
Click below to listen to the interviews with Kelly:
The interview with Season: “Helping kids with cancer” will be released on Monday, April 2nd. Feel free to subscribe to Wise Traditions through Apple Podcasts or any podcast app to get the latest podcast as soon as it is published!
Hilda Labrada Gore is a health coach and podcast consultant. She is also the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast, sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation for wise traditions in food, farming, and the healing arts. She is also a fitness professional, and the DC Metro Regional Director for Body & Soul Fitness. She lives in D.C. with her husband, Mitch, their children, and their cat and dog.