When you live and work in a place where English is the second language, you have a lot of time with your own thoughts. Most times those thoughts are rational –  my meals for that day, my work tasks, the number of clean sweat rags I have, etc.

At other times, my thoughts can go off the rails. Nothing that scary, just weird. But, I think that’s normal, even healthy. I think we all have ‘crazy’ thoughts from time to time. We just don’t admit it because we’re afraid of being shunned by our friends and family – or worse being locked up in a ‘mental’ hospital.

If we talked about mental illnesses as openly as we talked about broken arms, we’d be a much healthier, and one could argue, ‘sane’ society.

The truth is the line between sanity and insanity is very thin, and that’s never been clearer after spending time in a psychiatric hospital. For many people living in this hospital, their only illness is maybe mild to moderate depression. But, because they’re relatively minor untreated illness caused them to not cook for their family or clean the house regularly, they’re shunned by their families and dropped off on the hospital’s doorstep.

There’s nowhere else for them to go and the institution becomes their new home – even after being treated. And once you’re in here, you’re forever labelled as insane and the way out is extremely difficult.

It’s a sad story that’s been, and continues to be, repeated all over the world. And it’s all based on fear and superstition. Thankfully, things can be and are improving. It’s just going to take longer than it should.

The solution is simple: let’s talk about what’s going on in our heads, the same way we’d talk about what’s going on with our bodies. If we do that, I think we’d all find a lot more in common with one another.

If it turns out that everyone’s insane, what’s there to be ashamed of?

Thank you.

Dr.* Shaun

* Editor’s note: Shaun is neither a mental health expert nor a doctor. He’s just a guy going insane in Sri Lanka that wants some company.