It's something that I've entertained in my mind, considering different ideas of what could go into such a book and then generally letting the idea drift away again with some kind of idle speculation that maybe one day I could do that.
But over the last couple of days, the subject has been on my mind a bit more, to the point where I actually do want to write somethign down about it. Not enough for a book or anything like that, but certainly enough for a blog - especially as what I intend to say would probably not be interesting in any format other than a blog post.
Can a person find that paganism is beneficial for their mental health. Certainly. I'd say that spiritual fulfillment is one element of mental wellbeing. If Paganism is what helps you find that spiritual fulfillment, then great.
However, that is not the same as saying that Paganism (or things within Paganism) are themselves tools for achieving better mental health.
But as much as some of us might like to think that Paganism is a balancing force that can improve every element of our lives, for some of us that just isn't true.
Religion may provide a person with a sense of perspective and even provide some occassional support, in certain situations. But there is nothing to say that it should actually fix anything and certainly nothing to say that it should "fix" you - and there is nothing wrong with that.
Paganism is not going to heal me of my mental health problems. I can't expect magic, nor the Gods, nor any amount of ritual, to do that. Maybe nothing will.
Maybe. I don't know. Do we think that developing a relationship with that kind of deity will cause them to heal us? Personally, I would take issue with such a simplistic outlook.
The Gods are not an over the counter remedy and the benefits of having them in our lives are cumulative (and often subtle) over many years. A relationship with the Gods is like any relationship, you get out of it what you put in.
There is so much I could say on this subject. Firstly, what kind of relationship do you actually want with the Gods? If your only reason for seeking a relationship with them is to be healed of some psychological malady, then you have perhaps underestimated or misunderstood the nature of a relationship with the divine. You have to put in work from your side of the relationship and recognise that in order to truly gain the benefit of that relationship, they may want to teach you things and take you to places that are well beyond a doctor-patient relationship. In short, you can't go into a relationship like that expecting to benefit from one particular change in yourself, because the nature of such a relationship is to be led downn a path that causes change in every part of who you are.
It is necessary to realise that mental illness is rooted in the deepest parts of our psyches and that if you want to overcome it, then it needs to be addressed at the root.
Outside of religion and magic, it can take many long years of work and therapy to move beyond a mental illness. Seeking to find aid in these matters through religion, we should not expect it to be any less involved (and nor should it be a replacement for actual medicine!). The same applies to magic. Many view magic as "The Great Work" - an art for inner alchemical transformation of the self. It requires years of dedication and work. Mental health is a massive aspect of the "self" and so changing it in any meaningful way is not going to be achieved with a quick spell or ritual.
That may not be helpful.
Finally, back on the subject of magic, I'm going to make the very controversial statement that in many cases magic and mental illness are not a good mix. In fact, they can be a very bad mix.
I've been involved with some significant magical workings, including some that have been performed at length, within an expanded magical space. Such a thing can be very potent. But among such potent energies and such a charged environment, where changes in consciousness are sought, there also comes the risk that those same potent elements will exacerbate already present mental health problem.
Now, none of this is to say that deities, spirits and magic can't be beneficial in dealing with one's mental health problems. But it is so important to recognise the limitations of these things and the greater demands and work that come with reaping those benefits.
While the possibility of this shouldn't necessarily be overlooked, there is also one other things that positively cannot be overlooked: it sucks.
Seriously, having mental health problems sucks in a way that those not suffering it, probably can't even begin to comprehend and the suggestion that there may be the potential to find avenues of enlightenment in it, can feel insulting and insensitive. From my part of the crazy patchwork quilt, I've found that there can be an element of truth to the old addage that madness and genius walk hand in hand. Your mileage may vary.
But hey, if something positive can come from your suffering, then why not claim it?
To cure the crazy
For the rest of us, the road is inherently long and painful, and we may need to find our respite elsewhere.
But the point is, that we should not expect that Paganism, magic or the Gods are things that can be married to our mental health issues and help us deal with or cure them. It just doesn't work that way. For every person who finds that there is a natural mental health peace through Paganism, there is another who can only find that same mental peace through music or exercise or science fiction movies or writing.
Paganism isn't a panacea for mental health illnesses and shouldn't be expected to be. Though, if it happens to help your mental health, then hold onto it.