Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

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shjohnk
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Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby shjohnk » Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:37 am

Hi All,

The Buddha to me seems to be the ultimate psychiatrist: I believe that if Buddhist teachings were used to help the 'mentally ill' (I use parentheses because we all are 'ill' from a Dhammic perspective) it would be greatly beneficial. I know that some therapists already do use it. However I was wondering what people thought of using what we know to help those we may know who are struggling with mental issues? It seems to me that to suggest conventional treatments to someone who is suffering from emotional/mental distress when we know about the Dhamma is a bit like having penicillin in the cupboard and suggesting a wounded person go see a witch-doctor to prevent their wound becoming infected. Obviously i am not talking about dangerously disturbed or psychotic people, but people who are dealing with issues such as depression and other 'managable' issues: is conventional therapy the answer? Interested to hear the view sof anyone with training in psychiatry/psychotherapy.

Metta to all.

John

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:14 am

As a trained psychiatrist and psychotherapist John I would be interested to share views with you...but it's not possible right now for me. As I have patients waiting... :?

Perhaps I could get back to you later ?

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:28 pm

Okey doke John I have a few minutes. First of all I know only what i have read about health care in Australia...I have no first hand knowledge,
Increasing here in the UK the major psychosis, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder etc, are treated by psychiatrists .
Depressive illnesses are frequently referred to Cognitive Behaviour Therapists and the like..I am slightly unusual in that I am a trickcyclist who is also A GB Therapist..that's more unusual than you might think.
Many GBT practitioners are very sympathetic to Buddhadhamma..so in fact in the UK someone who presents with depression or anxiety state or OCD is very likely to meet with intervention from someone with knowledge of Buddhadhamma. Whether that is also true Down Under I am unsure about.

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Fri Aug 13, 2010 7:13 pm

shjohnk wrote:but people who are dealing with issues such as depression and other 'managable' issues: is conventional therapy the answer? Interested to hear the view sof anyone with training in psychiatry/psychotherapy.

i'm not trained but those kinds of things seem like they could be diminished just through people finding hope, meaning and good company.. certainly good explanations of buddhism could function like that for some people.
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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby fabianfred » Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:15 am

Learning the truth aout rebirth and karma should help most people reduce stress and worry.
But mentally ill people should not attempt meditation until they are cured of their illness or their condition will probably get worse.

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby Vepacitta » Sat Aug 14, 2010 4:28 am

You know I've heard that over the years that mentally ill people should't meditate - yet I remember the story of the ancient prince.

It's something I read ages ago - maybe 28-29 years ago - in some book about Zen Buddhism - back when I read things about Zen Buddhism.

But there was, according to the story, a prince from ancient times who was going mad (yes not clinical of me, but bear with me) - from what I can remember - he was depressed, anxious, paranoid and just generally really neurotic (it was written more colourfully than that however). At any rate - he wanted to kill himself - he was so sick of it all - but (and here's where memory gets fuzzy) he remembers the Buddha and the teachings and meditation. And he decides that he's going to meditate to cure his mind - and that he'll give himself a year and a day. If by that time there was no improvement - he would kill himelf.

So the ancient prince sat - or tried to = at first he couldn't even sit for half a minute - which went on for some time - but eventually - he could sit still for longer and longer periods of time. Then his mind started to calm down and come under control. After a year and a day - he was much better - so he went on with his meditation until finally he reached satori - enlightenment - as its stated in the old zen stories.

At any rate - this is a story about meditation curing mental illness - and even - according to the story - leading to enlightenment.

That story always struck me and I wish I could find that book and read it again.

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby shjohnk » Sun Aug 15, 2010 2:57 am

Hi All,

Thanks for all your posts and PMs :anjali: Seems I'm not the first person to decide the dhamma might be useful for helping the mentally ill :thumbsup: I think those of us who are not trained psychotherapists can also help friends who are troubled by applying our dhamma knowledge to the way we relate with them and hoping to influence them indirectly.

On another, slightly related, note, I heard somewhere that some prisons in India are using Vipassana meditation to calm inmates, as has been done in the west for quite a while now. Now, if only we could get it introduced in to schools :lol:

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun Aug 15, 2010 4:53 am

I recommend the film "The Dhamma Brothers", which documents such a program in a prison in Alabama, USA. Also the documentary "Changing From Inside", which is about a vipassana program in a women's prison in Seattle, USA.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 15, 2010 6:20 am

it would say it depends on how mentally ill one is. depression seems to cover a huge area, anywhere from "the blues" because your girlfriend left you, deep psychological pains that manifest also in physical ways and pain. the same could be said of some other disorders (or whatever we're calling them these days). the first type of depression and those closer to it, of course can be treated with meditation, the dhamma etc, since these are the "simple' dukkha of life itself as it is for all of us. now mental illness on the extreme end of the spectrum, personally shouldn't just be left up to one to just meditate or study, but rather should be handled by a professional. I've personally known people who after severe emotional trauma were told by monks that they need to stop meditation since during meditation all sorts of odd things were happening, thing normally equated with the insane (it's hard to talk about here due to invading another person's privacy). so there is no easy yes or no answer to this question, can some people be helped yes, can other be made worse. yes.

edit:
i should also add, that a long term or experienced yogi may be better at using meditation to help themselves versus an inexperienced one. those of us who have been around the cushion for years may be better at working through things that a newbie going through some type of off cushion psychological problem may have real problems with.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:21 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i should also add, that a long term or experienced yogi may be better at using meditation to help themselves versus an inexperienced one. those of us who have been around the cushion for years may be better at working through things that a newbie going through some type of off cushion psychological problem may have real problems with.

On the other hand, I've talked to a couple of people who developed some sort of depression (I'm not sure of the technical deatails) after quite a lot of practice... Of course, it's possible that they are/were in the difficult areas of the insight stages, which by many accounts can be hard to handle...

Mike

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:50 am

yeah there are people who seem to become detached. i went through that for awhile.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby PeterB » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:15 am

I have known people go through a period analogous to depression when the truth of dukkha hits home.
And people who go through a period analogous to clinical anxiety states when the truth of anicca hits home.
In both cases these are transient states that are not a sign of illness but rather healing crises that lead to health.
It is precisely during such times that people need instruction and spiritual friendship.

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:16 am

Sadhu :anjali:

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby shjohnk » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:59 am

jcsuperstar wrote:yeah there are people who seem to become detached. i went through that for awhile.


Yes, i can relate to that and i have gained only a tiny 'insight'. Also, detachment towards career (Hope my boss doesn't read this :thinking:..oh good, I'm still attached :tongue: ). I think metta practice is the best medicine for detachment from other people.

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby Calahand » Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:26 pm

It sort of helps me calm down when I think too much about what "IF"s :quote: can go wrong for "me", when you take the "me" out of the equation, you don't have to :juggling: your emotions all day long, you can simply watch them like you are watching your computer screen :coffee:

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Re: Helping Mentally Ill People with Buddhism

Postby shjohnk » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:49 am

Calahand wrote:It sort of helps me calm down when I think too much about what "IF"s :quote: can go wrong for "me", when you take the "me" out of the equation, you don't have to :juggling: your emotions all day long, you can simply watch them like you are watching your computer screen :coffee:

:goodpost:
Yes, absolutely agree. was brutally honest with myself about emotions and intentions for a half-hour time-period today and noted the following things crop up:
- Conventional emotion 'Frustration', after analysis was revealed as 'Aversion towards particular person and intention to vex said person'
- Conventional action of asking to be served in diner was revealed after analysis as 'Reinforcing self-view by demonstrating ability to speak foreign language (showing off)
- Conventional impusle to reprove someone for their 'rude' behaviour was revealed after analysis to actually be an impulse of 'Aversion/hostility towards person for speaking in a way that irritated me AND an impulse to make person's attractive female companion notice me, and ridcule her male companion i.e: lust' and 'coveting/jealousy' whatever.

This insight thing is brutal, but EXTREMELY beneficial in helping to turn the tide against such behaviours, ingrained over a long time.


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