Mental Health Perspectives Interview with Chaya Grossberg by Emma Snyder Woodside, Evergreen College student studying alternative health.
Emma: Could you talk about your mental health perspectives in general? What does it mean to be ‘mentally healthy?’
Chaya: Here’s something I wrote on that:
When someone uses the term mental health what do you assume they mean?
Someone who is happy most of the time?
Someone who lets others know and expresses it when they are sad or angry?
Someone who knows how to hide it well and keep on keeping on when they are grieving?
Someone who makes enough money to support themselves well?
Someone with a good brain?
Someone very intelligent who uses their mind creatively?
Someone who can think linearly and not get distracted with dreamy or “too creative” thinking?
Someone good at conforming to social norms?
Someone with a strong moral foundation who does what is right to them regardless of social norms?
Someone who can always keep a good balance between extremes?
Someone who never flies off the handle?
Someone who knows to break down and ask for help when things get hard?
Someone for whom things don’t tend to get hard?
Someone who fits in well to society as a whole or at least some subset of it?
Someone willing to be true to themselves even when they don’t conform with anything that already exists?
Someone who loves deeply and easily?
Deeply and with difficulty?
Never, because love is destabilizing to the mind?
Mental health, a term that only psychiatrists and therapists should use?
Only people who self define as mentally ill should use?
Only self defined mentally healthy should use?
Only those with a relative or close friend they define as mentally ill should use?
Everyone should continue to use vaguely without definition and assume we all mean the same thing?
So yeah, I don’t actually believe in defining what “mentally healthy” is. Mental health perspectives vary a lot from those who define the term rigidly to those who don’t define it at all.
Emma: What are your mental health perspectives on current mainstream practices (such as medications for ADHD, depression, anxiety)
Chaya: In my mental health perspectives, there should be far more informed consent and options. Doctors should be honest about the science or lack thereof and about different approaches and perspectives. In most cases there are safer and more effective alternatives to medications that are healthy and don’t create dependence, horrible side effects or withdrawal issues. They are also more affordable and sustainable (except that pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, insurance companies and the government have found ways to make pharmaceuticals the only accessible and socially acceptable resource for many).
Emma: What does your personal health routine look like?
Chaya: Daily meditation, journaling 3-7 pages (with pen and paper), eating regularly (every 3 hours), herbal infusions and tinctures, supplements, daily walks outside whenever possible, stretching, regular visits with my naturopath.
Emma: What is a typical session like with you? What techniques do you use to support people in getting off their meds?
Chaya: Typically the first thing I do is listen. Most of my clients have never been truly heard and believed, trusted about their own authority on their experiences. I listen, validate and ask questions such as “What is your passion?” and “What was going on in your life when you were first diagnosed?” and of course, “What is going on now, what are the challenges to withdrawal?”
Then we formulate a plan which may include a slow taper plan, some supplements, herbs, food choices and lifestyle choices. Some of my clients are ready to taper right away while others are not and it’s important for me to respect them where they are.
If they need other referrals such as a local doctor/herbalist/naturopath/psychiatrist/support group etc, I do research for my clients in my network if necessary and make recommendations.
If the client needs a residential or semi-residential but safe place to transition, we discuss ones that already exist or creating one.
I have created programs for clients that include a housemate, peer, therapist, herbalist and community connections to help get back on their feet after being isolated or hospitalized for a long time. These programs are very self directed and take all of the client’s preferences/sensitivities into account.
Emma: What mental health perspectives can support people with practices like yours?
Chaya: It would be awesome to have insurance coverage to help people safely withdraw from the drugs their doctors prescribed (often without enough information on withdrawal). Donations of money, herbs, supplements and other resources are always helpful. One of the main issues is accessibility.
The other is belief. So one of the mental health perspectives everyone can try on is to believe in others and not freak out when someone is different or going through trauma or spiritual emergence. People can refrain from telling someone else to take meds and encourage people to do lots of research and learn about their options, and different cultural ways of viewing tragic/extreme emotional experiences.
None of this is new and ancient cultures had different mental health perspectives and many ways of helping people through these things that we can learn from and incorporate them with modern science (but the real science).
Emma: What mental health perspectives would you give to those who are receiving pressure to get on meds from their family, friends, doctors, mainstream society, etc.?
Chaya: I would recommend they find well researched literature such as on madinamerica.com and educate their community about the risks of psych drugs, the difficulty in withdrawal and the actual research on long term outcomes. Bob Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic is a good place to start.
Some intuitive people already have mental health perspectives on the risks of psych drugs without a ton of scientific data, but for those who need the research, it’s there. People who take psych drugs have far worse outcomes in the long term, and pharmaceutical sponsored research only studies very short term outcomes, like 6 weeks out.
I’d also suggest showing them mental health perspectives and research about alternatives that work such as herbs and supplements. If there is a naturopath accessible to you, that would be a great resource. Naturopaths are MDs with all of the training of primary care physicians as well as tons of holistic knowledge. They can be a great bridge when people ask what the alternative is.
Emma: For people who aren’t in your area, what kind of support / resources should they seek out in getting off their meds?
Chaya: Finding a local naturopath, herbalist or other type of holistic practitioner can be helpful.
I support people by phone as well as help them find resources in their area. There are support groups in some areas (though not many) and online forums as well as Facebook groups. I help direct people to whatever resources they need, wherever they are since I have a large network and have worked with people all around the world.
Naturopaths and some other doctors can do bloods tests to determine if any deficiencies or hormone issues are contributing to the issues.
Emma: Where do you see this movement going at the moment—Is it receiving support? Criticism?
Chaya: I see more and more people learning from one another and creating underground systems of support. The internet has definitely given the movement opportunities that didn’t exist before, while psychiatry is also more aggressive than ever in finding new ways to make more and more people customers/chronic patients.
People who are generally questioning the co-optation of society, imperialism, late capitalism etc., are also starting to question psychiatry. On the other hand there’s a lot of political correctness and push back.
The movement has always received both support and criticism and still does.
Emma: What do you see as the biggest issue in popularizing the alternatives to psychiatry movement and other mental health perspecctives?
Chaya: The biggest issue is that many alternatives are still inaccessible for many people. The other issue is that a lot of the traumas and problems in society are so deep rooted that people are in constant existential pain, stress and agony and desperate to both take the edge off and alleviate their guilt for doing so.
Pharma does a good job of playing into people’s desperation and fears of doing the wrong thing and has so much money for direct and indirect advertising where they implement these strategies and normalize psych meds. So even most so called grassroots groups are somehow getting Pharma money, or government money and then are limited in what they can say and do.
Emma: What does your ideal universal standards/practices of mental/physical wellness look like?
Chaya: Hmmm…this is a tough one because I don’t think there is a universal standard. I do believe we all have something unique to contribute to the process of evolution and that each person has gifts to offer society.
Everyone has different wellness practices, and ironically, sometimes they involve going into difficult feelings, expressing hard truths and speaking up about injustices. Society isn’t quite at the point where “wellness” alone will heal everything. There is a lot we can do though, as individuals and communities to improve our wellbeing and physical health.
Finding the healing power or purpose in the wound can be the most powerful route to empowerment, liberation and “wellness”.