Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal

Mental illness is often thought to be a matter of individual disorder. Modern psychiatry looks to features of individual experience, behaviour and thoughts to diagnose mental illness, and focuses on individual remedies to treat it. If you are depressed, this is understood as your response to circumstances, based on features of your genetics, disordered patterns of thinking, or personal problems and emotional states. Western treatment of mental illness follows these same individualistic lines. The individual is provided with medicine and therapy, which are certainly helpful.

But such an emphasis on the individual can lead us to neglect communal approaches to treatment. Often overlooked are the ways in which social norms, cultural beliefs and communal attitudes contribute to mental illness. Ancient Chinese scholars understood this well.

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