Monday September 20, 2021

ThinkFest conversations: ‘Indigenous healing traditions have a lot for mental health’

July 30, 2021

LAHORE:In the modern world local healing traditions have been sidelined by modern medicine and psychiatry. This is a big mistake as indigenous healing traditions have a lot to offer in terms of mental health, said Professor William Sax from Heidelberg University.

Afkar-e-Taza ThinkFest conversations online hosted Professor William Sax from Heidelberg University, who was in conversation with co-founder of Women’s Advancement Hub and author Aisha Sarwari on the topic of ‘Global Mental Health and Local Healing Traditions.’

According to a press release, speaking about his research, Professor Sax, who is an anthropologist, said, “In the modern world local healing traditions had been sidelined by modern medicine and psychiatry. This was a big mistake as ‘indigenous healing traditions have a lot to offer in terms of mental health. The materialisation of the mind by modern science has been very unfortunate, and we need to re engage with local healing traditions.” Professor Sax has spent decades studying these traditions in South Asia.

Asked by Aisha about possible abuses, he reminded the audience that all forms of medicine had their risks and abuses: ’the key is to regulate and fix issues, rather than throwing away the whole tradition,’ he noted.

When Aisha asked about the abuse women suffer- as evident in recent cases in Pakistan, at the hands of men with mental health issues, Professor Sax underscored how it was usually men who were serial rapists or killers: ‘Do you ever find women with such severe issues?’ he asked. ‘We must explore the root cause of such problems which make men more prone to such mental health issues,’ he pointed out. Focusing on local traditions, Professor Sax identified faith as an integral form of healing. ‘There are several religion based practices that are useful and can be adopted.’

However, he warned that these local traditions must not be indulged in isolation. ‘Your shaman needs to know your doctor, and your doctor needs to know your shaman—there cannot be anything hidden,’ he emphasised. ‘There are lots of local healing traditions within Islam too which can be harnessed for better mental health,’ he noted.

Professor William Sax said, “People should know that the mind is very powerful and that it can be used to help us recover. Look at the placebo: It is the most studied phenomenon in the world, and it works—there is clear scientific evidence for it. We need to harness that energy to help people achieve better mental health in the world today.”