On community and mental health

Here are some excerpts from this recent article on mental health:

Mental health is the biggest modern malady.

Psychotherapy is key but is currently a luxury product that must be democratized. Although psychotherapy has been proved to be highly effective, it is prohibitively expensive and inaccessible; paying $150 for a session is a huge entry barrier that must be disrupted. Imagine a session for $15.

Therapeutic conversations in groups are the future and will be key in solving many of the barriers mentioned here. Groups are essentially communities, and just like with group therapy, they create a sense of belonging, of continuity, of mutual support — of the safety of not feeling alone with our problems. Groups also allow modern participatory platforms to reduce the cost of the expert by splitting it between multiple users, and allow synchronous and asynchronous access — anytime and anywhere.

Wait, what’s wrong this line of thinking? It aims to treat the symptoms of a disease with the same tools that came out of the disease itself. Solution: Let’s pay (hopefully less money) to talk to someone with a 8-year specialist medical degree. Yeah, that will fix it – like cutting the price of bread in half so the poor won’t starve. Their completely broke. Zero dollars buys zero bread whether it is $4 or $2.  And what is the future? Group therapy(!) – invented community support groups. News flash, it was also the past, in fact, nearly all six-thousand years of our past. It was built around family (that cooperated and lived in the same tent, tribe, house, or at least town). It was built around shared worship of God. It was built amongst coworkers who lived where they worked or close by and who had the fruits of their labors overlap greatly with what their neighbor consumed.

Instead, we in the modern west have boldly asserted our liberty and independence with ear-splitting volume. We hop in our cars and move days away from our family at the earliest convenience. Our work frequently has nothing tangible to do with anything we interact with the other majority of our life – the time not spent at the office or the factory. We have abandoned the faith of our ancestors or we have let it morph into casual participation with a motor-business zoned inspirational message and concert in the ‘burbs. Free from close proximity and likely free of sacraments, it has also lost it’s power to keep community glued together. Even when its orthodoxy is technically maintained, its form thwarts itself.

We have listened to modernity’s preachers for so long and now we are free. And what do we have to show for our freedom? Loneliness and its cousin, despair. Community building specialists, come they with Ph.D.s or M.D.s or even M.Div.s cannot save us. They are a product of the same age. Only Jesus can save us, and he will do it through his own work in sanctifying us and our neighbors and finally by coming himself.