I had lunch with Professor John Cox yesterday who will, hopefully, act as External Examiner for the Philosophy and Mental Health MA at Uclan. He outlined his growing interest in the role that spirituality might play in mental health. In the main, in discussions I’ve had about this both in the UK and at the Sun City philosophy of psychiatry conference, the idea has usually been coupled with formal religious faith traditions. But amongst most of my friends such traditions hold no interest. And yet as the WHO makes plain, the idea of experiencing life as having meaning seems very important both as an aim in itself and as a way of promoting mental health.
[T]hat mental health and mental well-being are fundamental to the quality of life and productivity of individuals, families, communities and nations, enabling people to experience life as meaningful and to be creative and active citizens. We believe that the primary aim of mental health activity is to enhance people’s well-being and functioning by focusing on their strengths and resources, reinforcing resilience and enhancing protective external factors. [WHO Europe Declaration]
And thus I wondered all the more, watching the very powerful and well directed film Control last night whether a sufficiently rich aesthetic life with both direct emotional engagement and discursive judgement might be enough to amount to spirituality in the WHO sense. I rather hope so. Of course it helped, watching Control, that the music has been a long standing part of the sound track of my own life since late adolescence.