How the voice of one can change the lives of many

By Gabrielle Lesage, AMI’s Summer Student

In the past we can see how much of an impact a group of individuals can have on society. Take for example the Underground Railroad; without collaboration and team effort it would not have worked. Helping individuals on that scale would be almost impossible without people working together for the common goal. On the other hand, we have also seen how the influence of one person can change the lives of many. Take for example Gandhi. His method of non-violent protest led a nation to its independence. The voice of one can amplify the voices of countless individuals who might not have been heard before.

You may be asking yourself what all of this has to do with mental health. In reality, it has everything to do with it! Although services for mental health issues have progressed significantly, there are still some problems that need to be addressed. More free services for those who cannot afford to see a psychologist and ending stigma are just some of the issues that need to be fought for. How can we tackle this? By speaking up.

One of the most significant and important changes in mental health history is the work of Philippe Pinel. During the later half of the 18th century, Pinel pointed out the injustice and inhumane treatment of people who were in what were called insane asylums. These patients were treated abhorrently, some being put in ghastly contraptions and chained to walls. Pinel saw that this was absolutely wrong, and spent part of his life eliminating the use of barbaric methods to hold patients down and trap them. Instead of using techniques that were regularly used in these institutions such as bleeding and blistering, Pinel used a type of therapy in which he was able to speak with the patient and came up with what is known as moral therapy. This revolutionized psychology and psychiatry.

If Pinel had not spoken up, what would have happened? Would insane asylums still exist? Perhaps more people would have suffered from the horrible treatment that asylums would inflict on these individuals. In this case, the voice of one person changed the lives of countless people.

In the end, the message I am trying to convey is to not be afraid to speak up about what you believe in. Although you may think that your voice is not strong enough to change the lives of those around you, remember that every movement starts with one idea. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “it’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”