Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Things Pagan's don't talk about... Mental Health & Substance Abuse

Merry Meet everyone.

Unless you have been in a cave on another planet I am sure that you have herd about the shooting of Arizona Congress woman Gabrielle Gifford by a troubled young man named Jared Lee Loughner. Now not only did this young man shoot Congress woman Gifford in the head severely wounding her, he managed to kill several other people before being stopped. Now we have pundits from all sides of the political spectrum trying to point blame as to why and how this could have happened, whose fault was it and did this young man have a political agenda. It is also coming out that clearly this young man was troubled and in serious need of help from a mental health professional. That of course leads me to the topic of my blog post today of things we as Pagans don't talk about or gloss over.

I first want to talk about Mental Health. I am quite sure we all know someone that is suffering from some kind of mental health issue (most commonly depression) and doing nothing about it. We as there friends often don't reach out to them? Is it we are embarrassed for them or maybe for our self because we too have an issue we are ashamed of? Is it because we perceive a stigma attached to any kind of Mental Health issue?  Are we afraid that we will come across as meddling in something that is none of our business? I don't know I really wish I had an answer. Perhaps by talking about them instead of brushing them under the rug we can find a few. I would like to bring up one more thing as it pertains to mental health and Paganism, which is this. Last year on this blog I put out a piece of humor which I did not write but it has been floating around the internet for years called The Field Survivors Guide to Neo-Paganism in which one of the entries was this.

Every magical gathering has at least one of these, along with several variants along the lines of Gerald Gardner, Tituba, Morgan LeFey, or somebody who was Atlantean royalty. Many of them were abducted by aliens recently, and have disturbing dreams rich with arcane symbolism that they will tell you all about, in great detail.
Distinguishing Signs: Look for the intense gleam in the eyes, the backpack rattling with various psychiatric medications, and the garments that were clearly designed and tailored on another planet.

Now if your like me you might get a little chuckle from this, heck I get a little chuckle from the whole list of them because I see myself in more than a couple of them. As the Charge says all acts of love and pleasure our my rituals. So it is good we can laugh at ourselves. But by the same token how often do we really run in to a person like the one mentioned in above satire? When we do how often do we laugh them off thinking they are harmless when clearly some of them are in serious need of help? 

The next thing I want to talk about briefly is Substance Abuse. It often times goes hand and hand with a Mental Health issue. Now I am not here to debate the validity of smoking pot or using some mind altering substance in ritual and whether we should or should not. That is not my place to do and is up to the individual to make a decision. I am talking about true Substance Abuse. We all know a Pagan Alcoholic or Drug Addict, and most of us tend to ignore their behavior, or see it as someone else's problem. Yes I understand that a Substance Abuser has to want help (I was married to one for many years) to get well, but it does not mean we should ignore the problem. Once again I wish I had an answer I don't but I think we should talk about it rather than pretend it does not exist. I want to end this blog today with a video from Craig Ferguson who is a late night talk show host here in America. Craig has been very public in talking about his Alcoholism and a few years ago when Britney Spears went off the deep end and shaved all her hair off he made a decision not to make fun of her on his late night show and to explain why. While references in this clip are a little dated the message is not and I hope you all take it to heart.  



  1. I wish more people asked the question "Can I use bleach on my UPGs?"

    I think one reason Pagans (or PHAs) don't discuss mental health issues, aside from the lame stigma over it that affects Western culture as a whole, and that people who ask themselves if they're crazy probably aren't, is that some things that can be meaningful practice to us once could (and sometimes still can) get you committed to a facility. I'm convinced that some people who've been diagnosed as mentally ill were in fact just unable to manage their own unverifiable personal gnosis. By the same token, I think people shy away from addressing truly unbalanced behavior for the same reason, and because of a misapplied wish to not be judgmental or intolerant. Is that an excuse for letting a time bomb tick? No.

    Personally, I draw the lines at functionality. I've met people who fit the satirical example; hell, I eventually broke up a hair-pulling contest between a couple of them (see the document "PHAs, MDGs, & CMS" in the right hand column of my blog).

    I don't care if someone gets their daily instructions from their Fruit Loops as long as those instructions keep them dealing with life at a reasonably constructive level and able to interact with a common enough frame of reality that they can get by without putting themselves in a bad way.

    Unfortunately, that's not good enough for some mental health care professionals, and there are people in social work and other positions who have very narrow definitions of what is reasonable and what is not. If Dawkins wrote the manuals, we'd all be in straight jackets.

    However, that is changing, and PHA friendly professionals with valid accreditation are out there. Circle Sanctuary and Aquarian Tabernacle among others have national referral resources. Many of these people are willing to work with clients at a distance if necessary, or refer them to someone who is closer that may not be in the resource loop.

    Substance abuse goes the same way. If your "spiritual practice" is making your life miserable, find another one.

  2. Hey, I'm new to being pagan in 15 years old and a little confused with alot of stuff does anyone know someone i could ask questions to and if so can you please send me their e-mail address on
    Thank you