My Journey part 5:
Mental Health and Spirituality
Many years ago in New York, I worked on a small project with Mental Health professionals in the South Bronx and Brooklyn. Both neighborhoods were/are heavily populated by Latino Community. The idea behind the project was to determine in some way if patients that had been admitted in the Psychiatric unit in this hospital may have fallen victims of “negative spells” or in simpler terms if the patient was under the influence of a dark spirit. Was the psychosis induced by some spiritual intervention or was it a true psychotic breakdown. Not being a Mental Health Professional we would assist the Psychiatric department by simply observing the patient under care. If a patient would be admitted to the hospital never had a history of any mental illness we would be called.
Not very often we would see a patient that in fact had fallen victim to some dark spiritual energy or witchcraft. When these cases came up we would try to determine as Spiritualist and Santero’s where this energy was coming from. Once we knew where it was coming from we were able to “heal” the situation. Those of us on the team of nonmental health professionals would discuss what kind of ritual we would need to do and discuss the outcome with the Therapist and the family. Our treatment of course was conducted outside the hospital and performed in the house of a Santero or Spiritualist. But not before the patient had been stabilized.
What we would do depending on the kind of negative spirit we were encountering. A “Misa Espiritual” (a spiritual mass/spiritual gathering) with mediums knowledgable of banishing negative spirits or entities.
The same way we were observers in the hospital, the M.H.P. (mental health professionals) were now the observers for our rituals. To their amazement, they were surprised as to the outcome of the sessions. The patient after a few hours of this intense ritual would be clear of the negativity and returned to “normal”.
The hospital would follow the person for a few months to see if there had been any kind of relapse or if any psychosis had developed. Our job was done. Sometimes the patient would follow up with one of the Santeros or Spiritualist but if they didn’t we would not know how they carried on with there lives.
In Santeria, the Orisha (Deity) that rules over all heads is Obatala, he was charged with creating the human form and the brain. We always ask Obatala to cool our heads and give us clarity in our lives. In Santeria, Obatala is responsible for the brain mass/the organ itself, and not what our thoughts are. He is the Orisha of all people born with any kind of birth defect including mental illness. The reason for this is that Oloudomare (the concept of God in the Yoruba tradition) instructed Obatala to make the human form. He did this relentlessly. One day Obatala had drunk to much palm wine, he continued to work under the influence. This is why there are children born with deformities because he was drinking and working. Priests of Obatala normally don’t drink alcohol.
Over the years I have encountered people with some degree of mental health issues. Some heavier than others but manageable for the most part. For some people, I consult with Obatala as well as some of my other spirit guides and ancestors on how best to work with the client. Often I find that many people suffer slight depression, due to marital status, not connecting with children, jobs and so on. These are the easier cases to deal with. As a spiritual therapist, I have a strong psychology background. Then there are cases that are beyond my help. I am not a psychotherapist and I make clients understand that all I may be able to do is provide a very temporary solution and I recommend that they should seek professional help.
We all are aware that if a person is unstable he/she can be a danger to you, others and most of all to themselves. Spirituality can help people that have mental health issues however it is up to the spiritualist or healer to understand the problem at hand. People have told me that they have stopped taking their medication. This is a big alarm bell for me. I first ask is it under medical supervision? If not I must insist in a gentle way that they talk with their doctors and explain their reason.
The opposite is also true when a person is on a higher dose and they begin to act manic. To them, they see themselves as “normal” but it is a downward spiral. If they become agitated it is best to step back and protect yourself.
Of course, not all institutions or medical professionals would prescribe to this type of therapy for patients. I am a strong believer that we need to consider all aspects of treatment. There should always be a Mental Health Professional involved or consulted in all treatment.