Last Sunday's NYTimes Magazine had a sizable article that I only got around to reading this morning It said we [America specifically, "First World" in general] are defining for the rest of the world the meaning of mental illness, that it is a chemical imbalance, or partly genetic and amenable to drug therapy and so on, not caused by the evil eye or by malignant spirits or any other traditional reason. The article seemed longer than what it had to say and it seemed, as I thought about it all day, to leave out some considerations: for instance, in other parts of the world the influential doctors are likely to have studied medicine in the US or Europe so they were trained to think in the western manner. Likewise they have been as much influenced by the drug companies as are our own doctors, to believe that the latest, greatest psychotropic will do wonders.
The article also says that when people believe a mental illness if biochemical in nature or genetic they have less empathy with the person than if they think it is a reaction to something circumstantial [like depression because of personal tragedies] where the feeling seems to be circumstantional kindness is helpful. It is not perceived as helpful in rebalancing messed up brain chemicals. [Need I say that these are my words and not exactly those of the writer?] At the same time the author, writing of course in a well respected media organ, does not seem to suspect that the now omnipresent media could have a hand in spreading this attitude, for good or ill.
The world is a complicated place. For the most part we are constantly bombarded with bits of information that may or may not be true, that we may or may not internalize and that we seldom stop to look at with a critical attitude, seldom wonder just what we are doing and why. It's much easier to suck it all in than to stop and question. We're often afraid too many questions will make us crazy -- and who will sympathize?
[Phote: a rather large water monitor--lizard--is in the grass; this seems an appropriate picture for this post since mental illness is an odd creature too, it seems almost prehistoric and we don't know if it's dangerous or not. Click to enlarge]
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