Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mental illness, the Fall and stigma

I am studying Social Work (now) and in my social work class last Friday people were discussing the stigma against mental illness and how it comes about. Usually it comes about when people blame people with mental illness for their behaviours, for example, they might think to someone with depression, 'Why can't you just be more positive?' In this view, someone is responsible for being mentally ill because it does not get better due to the bad choices that person is making.

I was reflecting on this stigma and I believe the idea of the Fall really takes away this stigma. In the idea of the Fall, there's an idea that because of our separation from God suffering has come to humanity in many random ways, without regard to justice. For one person it could be cancer, for another person a physical disability, for another person a natural disaster, there are diseases, etc. I think obviously it could also manifest in a chemical imbalance in the brain, or generally something being wrong with the brain so that it suffers from unavoidable problems which can only be relieved through physically correcting that problem, like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. So the mental illness has a physical cause and you cannot change this by an act of will.

If the Fall can damage every area of our lives, including our brain, then something normally under our control could be physically taken away, for example, our mental equilibrium. So being mentally ill is more like e.g. not having an arm because of an accident at work rather than being incompetent at helping yourself.

So I would say that viewing the Fall as having the power to mess up every area of our experience should help Christians relate to mentally ill people without a stigma.


Blogger Kristoffer said...

Im curious what you mean by "without regard to justice". I currently work in an inpatient psychiatric unit in a hospital, and the stigma is evident in the staff themselves. From a spiritual standpoint, many of those suffering with mental illnesses also have delusions and hallucinations concerning demons and angels, and I often wonder if they are really being tormented by demons. It makes sense that if one is not filled with the Spirit of God then he may be privy to be filled with something else, especially if his mind is broken. There are some that have incorrectly made the inference that religion causes mental illness because of these cases.

Blogger Will G said...

Hey Kristoffer you raise an interesting point. By 'without regard to justice' I'm kind of thinking of Job, where Job's friends try to pick apart things that Job has done to deserve his suffering and Job is adamant that he hasn't deserved it. God later comes into the picture and personally reprimands Job's friends and vindicates Job.

I have done some research on it and although it sounds quite unbelievable to ascribe people's voices and conversations to demons, it is interesting to meet or read about the sufferer who, yeah, as you have seen, basically feels like they are conversing every day with malevolent entities that self-identify as demons. I suppose maybe it could just be that their subconscious mind has something weird going on, but it is curious, and certainly explains why ancient society believed in possession and demons.


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