Independently whether you are starting from here (or not), in understanding mental health, its prospects and aspirations, you and your individuality (even singularity) cannot be underestimated. Why is it so? There are many factors in our lives in society, where we can rightfully feel being replaceable. However, when it comes to mental health and understanding well-being, there lies a particular kind of expertise, where your role just cannot be denied, nor replaced. There are no standardized, overall nor general answers of what was (mentally) good for you in your life contexts. So, let’s get started with your expertise! However, to grasp one’s aspirations in mental health, there are some tried tools and methods, like writing one’s story; discussing it with trustful peers in groups; reflecting one’s diverse resources of mental well-being; understanding what is mental health and mapping one’s social relationships. On this section, you can proceed from reflecting your life story and your diverse resources; to looking mental health from a positive and productive point of view; and mapping your social relationships – before concluding by making a “retrospective” step in what you have learnt.

During the previous few decades, I (ie. Markku Salo) have conducted some hundreds thematic interviews with long-term mental health service users for research purposes. When asking them about their dreams and aspirations, the striking, almost law-given first-hand reply has been, that ‘I have never been asked (seriously) about my dreams and aspirations’. Obviously, when not ever being asked, it takes a bit of time to reflect upon one’s future.

Picking one person as an example could be a former psychologist who, by the age of sixty had lived for years in a rehabilitation home. She told me that her dream was ‘to write the story of my life’. Two weeks after the interview, I phoned her and asked her how her writing was proceeding. She asked: ‘did you take my dream seriously?’. ‘Of course, how could I do anything else’, I replied. So, she started her literary journey. Within in a year and a half we were at the inauguration of a book, which included her story. When making a speech in front of a hundred people, she maintained: ‘I hope that my life story can be of use for younger people, maybe to help them avoid some of the obstacles that I had to encounter.’

So, whether we like history or not, we think it is good for a person to know, who she/he is. To know oneself is one of the fundamentals of mental health. Obviously, in the world of continuous change, chaos and turbulence, knowing oneself has become a life-long and continuous journey. The journey might even be more important than the destination. A journey guided by the signposts, like:

  • Where do I come from? What are my cultural, ethnic, social, spiritual and class roots?
  • Have I experienced any major social, emotional, spiritual and class transformations during the course of my life?
  • Where am I heading right now? What are my dreams and where do my aspirations come from? How is mental health linked to my dreams and aspirations?
  • Am I primarily a citizen of my hometown (or the place where I live); or of the region/province, where I live; of the country or nation where I live – or do I have a cosmopolitan identity [2]?

[2]. Cosmopolitanism indicates ‘a way of being in the world, a way of constructing an identity for oneself that is different from, and arguably opposed to, the idea of belonging to or devotion to or immersion in a particular culture.’ Waldron, J. (2000). What is cosmopolitan?

Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol. 8, No. 2, 227.

I don’t like history

history is not my story

my story is mystery

what’s your story?

They say that history repeats itself
but history is only his story
you haven’t heard my story yet
my story is different from his story
my story is not part of history
because history repeats itself
but my story is endless it never repeats itself
why should it?

Sun Ra [1]

[1] A legendary jazz figure, born Herman Blount in 1914, moved to his spiritual home, to the planet of Saturn in 1993. In between he changed officially his name to Sun Ra, in 1952.