What A Society Designed For Well-Being Looks Like


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In early June of this year, the back-to-back suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, coupled with a new report revealing a more than 25 percent rise in U.S. suicides since 2000, prompted—again—a national discussion on suicide prevention, depression, and the need for improved treatment. Some have called for the development of new antidepressants, noting the lack of efficacy in current medical therapies. But developing better drugs buys into the mainstream notion that the collection of human experiences called “mental illness” is primarily physiological in nature, caused by a “broken” brain.

This notion is misguided and distracting at best, deadly at worst. Research has shown that, to the contrary, economic inequality could be a significant contributor to mental illness. Greater disparities in wealth and income are associated with increased status anxiety and stress at all levels of the socioeconomic ladder. In the United States, poverty has a negative impact on children’s development and can contribute to social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. A society designed to meet everyone’s needs could help prevent many of these problems before they start.

To address the dramatic increase in mental and emotional distress in the U.S., we must move beyond a focus on the individual and think of well-being as a social issue. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations have made statements in the past decade that mental health is a social indicator, requiring “social, as well as individual, solutions.” Indeed, WHO Europe stated in 2009 that “[a] focus on social justice may provide an important corrective to what has been seen as a growing overemphasis on individual pathology.” The UN’s independent adviser Dainius Pūras reported in 2017 that “mental health policies and services are in crisis—not a crisis of chemical imbalances, but of power imbalances,” and that decision-making is controlled by “biomedical gatekeepers,” whose outdated methods “perpetuate stigma and discrimination.”

Our economic system is a fundamental aspect of our social environment, and the side effects of neoliberal capitalism are contributing to mass malaise.

In The Spirit Level, epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson show a close correlation between income inequality and rates of mental illness in 12 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries. The more unequal the country, the higher the prevalence of mental illness. Of the 12 countries measured on the book’s mental illness scatter chart, the United States sits alone in the top right corner—the most unequal and the most mentally ill.

The seminal Adverse Childhood Experiences Study revealed that repeated childhood trauma results in both physical and mental negative health outcomes in adulthood. Economic hardship is the most common form of childhood trauma in the U.S.—one of the richest countries in the world. And the likelihood of experiencing other forms of childhood trauma—such as living through divorce, death of a parent or guardian, a parent or guardian in prison, various forms of violence, and living with anyone abusing alcohol or drugs—also increases with poverty.

Clearly, many of those suffering mental and emotional distress are actually having a rational response to a sick society and an unjust economy. This revelation doesn’t reduce the suffering, but it completely changes the paradigm of mental health and how we choose to move forward to optimize human well-being. Instead of focusing only on piecemeal solutions for various forms of social ills, we must consider that the real and lasting solution is a new economy designed for all people, not only for the ruling corporate elite. This new economy must be based on principles and strategies that contribute to human well-being, such as family-friendly policies, meaningful and democratic work, and community wealth-building activities to minimize the widening income gap and reduce poverty.

The seeds of human well-being are sown during pregnancy and the early years of childhood. Research shows that mothers who are able to stay home longer (at least six months) with their infants are less likely to experience depressive symptoms, which contributes to greater familial well-being. Yet in the United States, one-quarter of new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and only 13 percent of workers have access to paid leave. A new economy would recognize and value the care of children in the same way it values other work, provide options for flexible and part-time work, and, thus, enable parents to spend formative time with their young children—resulting in optimized well-being for the whole family.

In his book Lost Connections, journalist Johann Hari lifts up meaningful work and worker cooperatives as an “unexpected solution” to depression. “We spend most of our waking time working—and 87 percent of us feel either disengaged or enraged by our jobs,” Hari writes.

A lack of control in the workplace is particularly detrimental to workers’ well-being, which is a direct result of our hierarchical, military-influenced way of working in most organizations. Worker cooperatives, a building block of the solidarity economy, extend democracy to the workplace, providing employee ownership and control. When workers participate in the mission and governance of their workplace, it creates meaning, which contributes to greater well-being. While more research is needed, Hari writes, “it seems fair ... to assume that a spread of cooperatives would have an antidepressant effect.”

Worker cooperatives also contribute to minimizing income inequality through low employee income ratios and wealth-building through ownership—and can provide a way out of poverty for workers from marginalized groups. In an Upstream podcast interview, activist scholar Jessica Gordon Nembhard says, “We have a racialized capitalist system that believes that only a certain group and number of people should get ahead and that nobody else deserves to … I got excited about co-ops because I saw [them] as a place to start for people who are left behind.” A concrete example of this is the Cleveland Model, in which a city’s anchor institutions, such as hospitals and universities, commit to purchasing goods and services from local, large-scale worker cooperatives, thus building community wealth and reducing poverty.

The worker cooperative is one of several ways to democratize wealth and create economic justice. The Democracy Collaborative lists dozens of strategies and models to bring wealth back to the people on the website community-wealth.org. The list includes municipal enterprise, community land trusts, reclaiming the commons, impact investing, and local food systems. All these pieces of the new economy puzzle play a role in contributing to economic justice, which is inextricably intertwined with mental and emotional well-being.

In Lost Connections, Hari writes to his suffering teenage self: “You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met.” Mental and emotional distress are the canaries in the coal mine, where the coal mine is our corporate capitalist society. Perhaps if enough people recognize the clear connection between mental and emotional well-being and our socioeconomic environment, we can create a sense of urgency to move beyond corporate capitalism—toward a new economy designed to optimize human well-being and planetary health.

Our lives literally depend on it.

Tabita Green wrote this article for The Mental Health Issue, the Fall 2018 issue of YES! Magazine. Tabita is a worker-owner at New Digital Cooperative, a digital communications firm based in northeast Iowa, and a new economy advocate. Follow her on Twitter @tabitag.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
What A Wealthy Heir Learned From Mobile Home Residents
Is A Wealthy Heart A Healthy Heart?

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April 23, 2019

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April 2019

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2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use your...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
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This bill would require licensure for more than 100 holistic healing modalities under the broad definition of “bodyworks" it contains — “Bodywork”,...

Where:
Massachusetts State House, Room 222
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA
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Contact Name: Rita Glassman

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Dreams are a psychic experience that everyone has. They have always fascinated people from the ancient world to the modern. In this class we will explore the power of dreams, how to use them to...

Cost: $30

Where:
Moth and Moon Studio
173 South River Road
Suite #4
Bedford, NH  03110
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Sponsor: Moth and Moon Studio
Telephone: 603-782-3674
Contact Name: Danielle Dionne
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The symptoms may vary, but most women go through some physical and emotional changes during menopause that can range from mild to severe to downright debilitating. This class will explore why these...

Cost: $20

Where:
Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
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Sponsor: Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
Telephone: 508-393-1212
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With Jonathan Glass, Ayurvedic practitioner. Presenting a 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and nourishment of your body, mind and soul, inspiring results that can...

Where:
Concord, MA


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Discover how you can release tight muscles and improve range of motion in locked joints in a weekly ESSENTRICS stretch classes led by Raindrop Fisher, certified Essentrics instructor. Raindrop is a...

Cost: $10 drop-in / $100 for 12 classes

Where:
Village at Waterman Lake
Function Room - Chalet Bldg
715 Putnam Pike
Greenville, RI  02828
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Sponsor: Healthier Fit Lifestyle
Telephone: 401-678-0950
Contact Name: Raindrop Fisher
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Reserve these Rally dates: March 28, April 11, Apr 25 Please join one or more of the Health Freedom Action Massachusetts (HFAMA) three Thursday rally days March 28, April 11 and April 25 at the...

Where:
Statehouse
Room 348
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA  02133
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Anxiety can be an overwhelming experience, but it is rooted in primal logic. In this Neurosculpting workshop you will learn why your brain does what it does and how to rewire your subconscious...

Cost: $40—2 hours

Where:
BrainHckr @ Union Wellness
64 Union Square
Somerville, MA
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Sponsor: BrainHckr
Telephone: 617-821-5560
Contact Name: Katie DiChiara
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In a time of deep divisiveness in our country, how do we remain true to our principles and also hold a spiritual commitment to loving our neighbors, even if they hold vastly different...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Heart’s Journey
196 Pleasant Street Suite 302
Northampton, MA  01060
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Sponsor: The Heart's Journey
Telephone: 413-687-9951
Contact Name: Abriete Medore
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What is Post-Traumatic Growth?    Who are you beyond the pain and trauma? Is it possible to befriend your old "stuff"? Experience how to create an energetic...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
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Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969,
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
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Join me for this special event at my new space! Sound Journeying is an accessible way to explore meditation, relaxation and all the spaces in-between. Our soundscape will be created by Himalayan...

Cost: $20

Where:
Sri Healing Arts
464 Marlboro Rd.
Brattleboro, VT  05301
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Sponsor: Sri Healing Arts
Contact Name: Sher Levesque
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 April 26–28, 2019 World Qigong Taichi Day is a day of free presentations, demonstrations and mini-classes offered by nationally recognized leaders of Taichi, Qigong, Chinese...

Cost: Free

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
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Telephone: 866-264-5139
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April 26–28 Intuition + Energy Medicine + Energy Psychology = The REAP Healing Method This weekend intensive certification training course provides you with the understanding and the...

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
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April 27–28 9:00am–5:30pm each day Taught by Leontine Hartzell Learn unique powerful healing methods of using multiple frequencies of light, vibration, sound, tone, sacred...

Cost: $375, early bird discount by March 1: $325 for Level I

Where:
Eye of the Eagle Center, private oceanside home
45 minutes north of Boston by rail or road
Gloucester, MA  01930
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Sponsor: Leontine Hartzell
Telephone: 978-377-8948
Contact Name: Leontine Hartzell
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“Consciousness does not just passively reflect the objective material world; it plays an active role in creating reality itself.” — Stanislav Grof MD, from The Holotropic Mind...

Cost: $150, $175 after April 20th (see below for tickets)

Where:
First Congregational Church
43 Silver Street
Greenfield, MA  01301
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Sponsor: Allen Howell, M.Ed. LMHC and Ellen Wolfe MS HTR
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Returning to the seacoast area for another delightful day to help support the Franco American Centre! Psychic readings, energy healing, marketplace and a great raffle! Free general...

Cost: Free general admission

Where:
The Hampton Inn & Suites
59 Portsmouth Ave.
Exeter, NH  03833
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Sponsor: Awakening Moments with Angie
Telephone: 603 321-4818
Contact Name: Angie D'Anjou
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With Nancy Smith Starts Saturday, April 27, 2019 Learn to anchor into the Akashic Energy of Creation through meditation and prayer. Open to the Akashic energy and the records of the universe...

Cost: $860 (Early Bird $770)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
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Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
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Join us for our wellness fair at state of grace yoga. Mini-yoga classes and chair massage, Reiki and energy work, art, jewelry, beautiful retail shop, vendors. Revitalize yourself! More...

Cost: $10 donation for charity

Where:
State of Grace Yoga
Uxbridge, MA


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Instructor: Lisa Abbate, CHt Adult Level Embrace your goals and dreams and take action! Give yourself permission to want what your heart desires!  Afterall, there is no...

Cost: $85

Where:
Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
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Sponsor: Creative Spirit
Telephone: 781-797-0389
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Join in World Tai Chi & Qigong Day! Last Saturday of April each year at 10am worldwide. Hundreds of cities spanning 80 nations come together, to breathe together and provide a healing vision...

Cost: Free

Where:
Elm Park
Russell Street
Worcester, MA
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Sponsor: Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy of New England
Telephone: 774-321-6611
Contact Name: Sifu Gary
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In conjuction with the release of his new video series on Yoga Anytime, Internationally recognized instructor Robert Sidoti takes the concept of his latest yoga program off the screen and into the...

Cost: $40.00 in advance. $45 at door (if space is available)

Where:
KJ Fitness
1565 Main Street Unit D
Tewksbury, MA  01876
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Sponsor: Relax and Recharge with Chuck
Contact Name: Chuck Raffoni
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Mediumship and card readings, $20 for 15 minutes, tuning forks and energy healing with Jeanne Perrault Proprietor—The Yoga Mat of Methuen, MA. Vendors include: homemade soaps, oils,...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rte 3A
Billerica, MA  01801
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Sponsor: Spiritualist Fellowship Church of New England
Telephone: 781-287-9754
Contact Name: Chris
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Saturday, April 27, 10:30am–6:00pm and Sunday, April 28, 10:30am–5:30pm Dig at the roots of habits to weed out addictive habits and discover a deeper purpose in your life. with...

Cost: $295 early bird if paid by March 22nd ($325 after)

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
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Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
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With Trish Whynot, D.C.Ed.  Our goal for Mindful Goddess Retreats is to connect like-minded women with each other and with presenters who delight in the opportunity to expand your...

Cost: $149, $10 lunch voucher included

Where:
51 S. Main St.
Concord, NH
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Telephone: (978) 314-4545
Contact Name: Trish Whynot, D.C.Ed.
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Eclectic-Fest is a day of celebration of creativity and spirituality. We have gathered some the most diverse vendors in the area to provide you with a great selection of good to bring home...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Taunton V.F.W.
82 Ingell Street
Taunton, MA  02780
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Sponsor: Brother Granite
Telephone: 774-208-6195
Contact Name: Brother Granite

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6 weekends to become deeply connected to herbal medicine, food as medicine, product making, your health and more. $1395 includes lunch, field trips, herbal preparations, health coaching sessions...

Cost: $1395

Where:
, VT


Telephone: (802) 249-7551
Contact Name: Marie
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The 2019 Apprenticeship Program begins April 27 and meets one weekend a month through October. Students get hands-on experience making tinctures, teas, salves, oils, herbal sprays, and flower...

Where:
The Boston School of Herbal Studies
12 Pelham Terrace
Arlington, MA  02376
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Sponsor: The Boston School of Herbal Studies
Telephone: 781-646-6319
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April 27–28 Join other like-minded seekers as we take a journey through the concepts of the new Earth paradigm, higher self and soul sovereignty, ascension mechanics, and spiritual alchemy.

Where:
Derry, NH


Telephone: (617) 366-6042
Website »

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Beginner Class: 4/27 (6:00-10:00 pm), 4/29 (7:00-10:00 pm), 4/30 (7:00-10:00 pm) Intermediate Class: 5/1, 5/2, 5/3 (7:00 – 10:00 pm) Tuition: None, but donation is appreciated for...

Where:
16 South Road
Bedford, MA  01730
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