Well I certainly agree that the view of mental
illness on the part of society as a whole is archaic.
Here’s my take:
A person who does not produce enough insulin, or is
insulin-resistant, takes medications to restore balance
to their physical “system.”
Psychotropic and other medications help somewhat to
restore the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain,
in those individuals who have a neurobiological imbalance.
[aka “mental” illness…it is a* brain disorder, for heaven’s
Trying to “fit” the thoughts and emotions of one who’s brain
function is affected, into moral categories is risible, to me.
If a person, for instance, has brain damage as a result
of an auto accident, and from time to times starts
throwing around a dish or two, who would characterize
that in moral categories?
So, a neurobiological disorder [aka “mental” illness]
is the only illness that a person suffers that they
have to feel guilty for as well as endure?
A final thought for the vast majority who do not
suffer a neurobiological disorder:
Please take a moment to remember the last
time you were so fatigued, mentally and physically,
that your thoughts tended toward pessimism,
“it’s all too much for me”, etc. A good night’s sleep,
and you’re back on your feet, so to speak.
Now, picture a physical disorder that makes you
"feel" this way day after day. Further imagine being
told to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and
"get a grip."
Or, suppose you’ve just been in a minor car
accident. Picture that dazed feeling that may come
upon you, briefly. The difficulty understanding
what people are saying to you for a moment.
Extrapolate that to get the picture of what some
people experience on a frequent basis.
And where is God in all of this? Cradling the
"mentally ill" in His arms, trying to tell them that
He made them, He knows what dysfunction is
and, to Him, these are some of His special
children, who He knows carry a double burdern…
the illness itself and the lack of comprehension
in those around them…mostly there because of
a lack of knowledge, not a lack of charity.
My own suggestion is that each diocese provide
priest-confessors who are trained psychologists
and make these men available as confessors for the
"mentally ill" in their dioceses.
Those who have been significantly injured emotionally
by others in their lives are just that…injured. They
need our love and understanding and support, and
most especially, our prayers.
For myself, I prefer Benedict Joseph Labre as a
role model for the mentally ill. This poor, suffering
soul lived in a day and age when nothing was
understood about brain disorders. He embraced
his suffering and made the best of it, spiritually,
with God’s grace.