Alternative Healing & Mental Health Crisis
The word ‘healing’ comes from an old English term, haelen, which means “wholeness.” Healing isn’t just a complex biological process but used in many aspects of an individual’s life – emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental. When it comes to alternative healing, it is a rational viewpoint based on principles of alternative medicine.
People have always been interested in alternative healing methods for treating both physical injuries and illnesses of the mind. Alternative healing methods have survived despite the constant technological innovation, research, and medical discoveries.
What makes alternative healing so fascinating that it remains intimately tied to many cultures and people’s individual beliefs despite the strides in modern medicine? To understand its true impact, let’s first look at its history, and then we’ll dive into its modern applications—specifically the treatment of mental health problems.
History of Alternative Medicine
While alternative healing methods have been around for centuries, the term dates back to the 1970s, when a diverse set of medical practices, theories, approaches, and remedies were created and promoted as ‘alternative medicine’. While contemporary medical establishments didn’t endorse the practices, they quickly became a critical aspect of various communities and cultures within the US.
There are tens of different types of alternative healing practices applied all over the world, energy healing being one. It is an integral practice that stimulates the body’s energy system to eliminate negative blocks. Reiki, an early 20th-century Japanese method of energy healing, influences energy pathways of the body. Likewise, meridians have helped traditional Chinese medicine specialists to establish acupuncture.
All these ancient cultures have used different techniques to activate the body’s natural capability to heal. The Emotion Code book by Dr. Bradley Nelson also discusses and analyzes energy healing methods and how to identify trapped emotions to release them, allowing the mind and body to heal faster. The techniques lay the groundwork for emotional balance and improve the spiritual and emotional well-being of a person.
Mental Health Crisis in the World
Mental illness is one of the most disregarded areas of discussion globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report, approximately 1 billion people are battling a mental disorder, 3 million people die every year by alcohol usage, and at least one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.
Nearly 75 percent of people do not receive medical treatment for mental illnesses. There is an even broader discontinuity – about 76% to 86% of people who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders and do not receive medical treatment in lower-middle-income countries.
People who suffer from mental illnesses may face a threat of other health issues, such as heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, with both physical and mental illnesses feeding into each other.
Depression has become one of the major mental disorders affecting more than 300 million people, taking approximately 800,000 lives every year.
Can Alternative Healing Therapies Address Common Mental Health Problems?
Despite the gravely concerning numbers, easy and accessible treatment of mental illness remains neglected. From lack of mental health professionals to financial barriers to healthcare, lack of awareness, social stigma, and disparities in behaviors toward different races and ethnic groups, contemporary treatment options remain largely accessible for the majority population worldwide.
It’s no wonder that people are turning toward accessible alternative healing methods that not only destigmatize mental health problems but also offer affordable solutions with clear short-term impact.
Let’s take a look at popular alternative healing methods currently being used to alleviate the symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and emotional dysregulation.
Aromatherapy is a universal healing treatment. Aromatherapy has been around for many years and comes from Chinese, Egyptian, and Indian traditional healing methods—integrating scented plant elements in balms, oils, and resins.
These natural ingredients have been reported to successfully promote the well-being of a person offering both psychological and physical benefits. It also helps in boosting emotional health. Aromatherapy works through the use of products that engage the body’s sense of smell. Some commonly used products are:
- Clay masks
- Bathing salts
- Body wash and lotions’
- Hot and cold compresses
- Aromatic spritzers
Originating from the Chinese culture, acupunctural treatment relies on inserting thin needles into a person’s skin at specific points to trigger brain functions, stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities.
Research from National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH) suggests that acupuncture is generally considered safe if an experienced practitioner implements it using antiseptic needles. While it can help reduce migraines, lower back pain, neck pain, knee pain/osteoarthritis, acupuncture therapy can also help alleviate symptoms linked with different mental disorders such as stress.
3. Expressive Therapy
Expressive therapy integrates painting, dancing, writing, singing and other dynamic activities that help a person explore and regulate emotions. Qualified therapists also suggest expressive therapy and emotional development activities to analyze a person’s reactions and insights.
By stimulating four major areas—expression, imagination, mind-body connection, and active participation—expressive therapy helps in addressing mental and emotional conditions, such as:
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Developmental disabilities
- High levels of stress
4. Herbal Treatments
According to World Health Organization (WHO), Herbal medicine is based on skills, knowledge, and approaches used to improve, diagnose, and treat mental and physical illnesses.
If you’re relying on herbal healing methods, it’s essential to check the traditional herbal registration (THR) and Product license (PL) for safe usage. Herbal remedies do not always work on everyone, be it for treating physical injuries or mental disorders, but they can be effective when used methodically, combined with other treatments.
Always consult with a physician or a licensed therapist before consuming herbal medicines.
The use of alternative practices may not address the long-term problems associated with mental health, but research indicates that it can have a profound short-term impact.
It is always vital to check the evidence and ask questions before starting any alternative therapy. If you have the means and access, try to combine alternative healing methods with modern treatments directed towards mental illness for maximum impact.