a slightly faded photo of the signs and tops of peoples heads at a pro-Palestine protest
On Genocide and Caring for Mental Health

We demand a ceasefire now.

I’m writing to you now to acknowledge the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people and simultaneous rise of antisemitism in our country. Our leaders must take responsibility for the needless violence, and they must act now. 

Mental Health is Political

But why would a mental health clinic venture to make such a political statement? The truth is, the business of healing mental health is inherently political. The things that bring people to therapy cannot be isolated from their context. Abuse does not happen in a vacuum. Despair, grief, and anxiety do not happen in a vacuum. Even symptoms which more classically have been attributed to a chemical imbalance or genetics are often best addressed through community-based interventions – and the way that we care for communities is political. Ultimately politicians create situations which affect our mental health, and political choices also influence how accessible mental health treatment is for those who need it.

Mental Health in Times Like These

That being said, we at Willow & Leaf know that this is a difficult time for many, and we’d like to offer some ways to care for your mental health during these tumultuous times.

Anchor yourself in your breath. Breathe in deep through your nostrils into the depth of your belly. Feel yourself take up space. Breathe out through your mouth or try humming. The vibration of humming massages and soothes the vagus nerve which gets activated when witnessing danger and violence. When the vagus nerve is overwhelmed, we lose our ability to react from a place of values and intentionality and flip into our lizard brain of fight, flight, freeze and fawn. Resmaa Menakem and his book My Grandmother’s Hands offer wisdom and additional exercises which are part of what he calls Somatic Abolitionism.

Find the others. Humans are inherently social creatures. Loneliness is as dangerous to the body as smoking cigarettes. Community births resilience and an interdependence that swaddles, nurses, and encourages the continuation of life. We are stronger when we are together, and this goes not only across state and country lines, but across timelines as well. A great book that I have found fortifying is Healing Justice Lineages by editors Cara Page and Erica Woodland.

Learn to hold your pain. Holding the pain is different than numbing the pain, and there’s no shame in using skills and resources to help hold the pain. Holding the pain might look like moving beyond the constraints of language to express it more visually through art. It might look like talking to a friend. It might look like making sure you’re nourished and fed so you can keep doing the things that are important to you. Pain, though challenging, can lead us to beautiful moments if we learn to hold it with compassion and care.

Finally, lean in to where you feel you have power. When it comes to resistance movements, the status quo wants you to feel powerless. Depression acts similarly and influences people in ways that make them feel small, be inactive, isolate and be miserable. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy states that the opposite of stuckness is not just any activity, but action specifically committed to one’s own values. What’s great is that this can work retrospectively too. Look at what you’re already doing, figure out how even the small behaviors are connected to your larger values (for example, going to bed on time makes me feel more equipped to engage in challenging conversations with family), and use that momentum to keep you going towards the bigger picture tasks you want to achieve. 

Of course, there’s always professional help to support your journey as well. Therapists at Willow & Leaf are trained in liberation therapy approaches to make sure you don’t have to navigate these days alone. Additional resources can be found here.

Take care out there.

About the Author

Image of Jordan Dobrowski, LCSW: white woman in mid twenties with a nose ring

Jordan Dobrowski is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Provider with experience providing psychotherapy to youth and adults in both English and Spanish. She received her Master’s in Social Work with certificates in Trauma-Informed Care and Culturally Responsive Mental Healthcare for Immigrant Families from the University of Chicago in 2018. She currently teaches with Naropa University and the Integrative Psychiatry Institute in their psychedelic clinical training programs. She is the founder of Willow & Leaf Counseling, and the executive director for Kaleidoscope Psychedelics — an organization working to improve psychedelic therapy access for BIPOC, queer, and neurodivergent folks in Chicago.

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