Can Principles of Mountaineering Help in Recovery from Mental Illness?

Posted on November 20, 2017

The picture shows me standing on top of the summit of Cotopaxi (19,347 ft.) in Ecuador (Allow me just a little bit of self-indulgence here).

Cotopaxi Sanil Rege

I spent less than 2 minutes on the top and had to make arrangements to descend safely. All I had was a brief ‘dopamine squirt’ providing me with a mild dose of euphoria. Was this the most valuable part of the journey?

At first glance, the title may seem like a strange question, but let’s have a look to see if some of the principles of mountaineering apply to individuals in overcoming depression or for that matter any psychiatric disorder or life’s obstacles in general.

Over the last few years, I have used this analogy with many of my patients with mental illness, with some success in encouraging them with recovery.

After the acute phase of illness has been treated, a particular challenge is helping the person get back to recovery or wellness. In my experience, a large part of it is a mental shift; equipping individuals with the right mental model.