AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in Psyche: “Chinese philosophy has long known that mental health is communal.” Alexus McLeod writes
…an emphasis on the individual can lead us to neglect communal approaches to treatment. Often overlooked are the ways in which social norms, cultural beliefs and communal attitudes contribute to mental illness. Ancient Chinese scholars understood this well.
These thinkers recognised a number of mental and behavioural disorders as illnesses (bing), which were categorised and discussed in the earliest-known medical text in China, the Huangdi Neijing Lingshu Jing (the oldest parts of which date to the 4th century BCE). This text describes a number of mental illnesses, most prominently dian, marked by ‘unhappiness, headache, red eyes and a troubled mind’, and kuang, marked by ‘manic forgetfulness, flying into rages’ and ‘wild activity’, among other symptoms. Early Chinese medical scholars understood such mental illnesses to have a number of contributing causes, including overabundance of emotion, failure to control desires, the depletion of ‘vital energy’ from the organs – and the community to which one belongs.