Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Born to Run

It has been quite a week for mental health – from the Emmys to the UN General Assembly to the release of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run.

Important mental health issues and milestones abound, and the lyrics of Springsteen’s signature song, “Born to Run,” (also the title of his book) are prescient and poetic headings for our musings this week.

1. “Everybody’s out on the run tonight, but there’s no place left to hide.” You would have to be Sleeping Beauty or Rip Van Wrinkle not to know we have a global crisis of 21 million-plus refugees around the world. And part and parcel of the Refugee crisis is a mental health crisis – characterized by refugees suffering with high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, as well as psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. This week, President Obama hosted a summit on the global refugee crisis during the UN General Assembly, and attendant countries pledged an additional 360,000 refugee resettlement spots and increased mental health care. This is a drop in the bucket, and as much as there’s no place left to hide for the refugees (over half of whom are under 18 years of age), there is no hiding from this tragic state of world affairs for all of us.

2. We’re gonna get to that place where we really want to go.” Ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all are 3 pillars of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Mental health is related to each, and at a satellite meeting of the UN General Assembly, members of our Global Mental Health Program joined hundreds of individuals from academia, healthcare, industry, and government to launch mhNOW – challenging leaders in cities around the world to close the mental health gap by taking collective action across every sector.

3. In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream.” From Game of Thrones to Veep and Downton Abbey, we are entertained by TV shows that capture our imagination as well as everyday life experiences. This past Sunday, at the 68th Prime Time Emmy Awards, actors and all the crew that sweat it out for the dream of making it on prime time gathered to celebrate. Many of them wore lime green ribbons on their tuxes and gowns to show solidarity with friends, colleagues, and loved ones who struggle with mental illness.

4.Will you walk with me out on the wire, ’cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider.” “Writing about yourself is a funny business,” Springsteen notes in his forthcoming autobiography Born to Run. “But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind.” Springsteen does just that as he powerfully recounts his long battle with depression, his efforts to get well with psychotherapy and medication, and the unfailing support of his wife and champion, the singer Patti Scialfa.

5. “Together Wendy we can live with the sadness, I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.” First Lady Michelle Obama continued her campaign to end stigma in her interview with Prevention Magazine that just hit the newsstands. “The stigma around talking about mental health and getting help for it just doesn’t make any sense. This is an issue that affects us all.” She is right – with one out of four individuals experiencing a mental health problem over the course of their lifetimes, mental health concerns touch all our lives. And “the Boss” is right that together, loved ones and communities can make a world of difference to end the stigma and suffering.

“Someday girl I don’t know when … we’ll walk in the sun.” The UN Special Session on Refugees, the mhNOW satellite meeting, the green ribbons at the Emmys, and Springsteen’s candor in his forthcoming memoir are rays of sunlight in our efforts to advance mental health globally. “… tramps like us, baby we were born to run…!”

— This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on September 23, 2016.

Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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