After watching the movie “Madness” all I felt was a bit ill. Humans have treated each other monstrously for thousands of years. It seems like it has been since we realized we were an “I”, but we have most certainly done so for as long as we have been living together in “civilization(s)”. As the film opens, we learn how madness was something to be feared and therefore such people were most often tortured and/ or imprisoned in an attempt to either drive the madness (demons) out or to lock the offensive, mad person, away from society. When they attempted to help (I dare not go so far as to use the word “cure”) these people, they used terrible ignorant methods, from ancient Trepanation to completely “modern” pre-frontal lobotomy and electroconvulsive therapy…

            I really should be clear here, as I talk about this film, watching it was a bit sickening and may very well be beyond many people’s tolerances for watching actual human torture. I do not believe that such things should be tolerated at all anywhere in the world, but if one is able to disconnect what you are watching as a past and therefore unchangeable event, it may not give them nightmares. I myself was surprised to find that watching an actual lobotomy being performed did not make me sick but only because it is a past, unchangeable, event. If I happened to be in a hospital and someone was about to perform the procedure, I would intervene. The practice, as most historic “mental health” practices, is completely barbaric.

            The one truly beautiful thing I saw in the whole film was when they introduced the village of Geel, Belgium. A place where the Patron Saint Dymphna is said to dwell. It is a beautiful village that has its history steeped in healing at the Church of St. Dymphna where miracles were told to have been performed to heal the minds of those afflicted with madness. At some point, the priests of the church asked the villagers to help by offering a safe bed and food to those that came seeking healing. The open-door policy of the local hospital is mirrored in the homes of the people of Geel where they happily and readily accept these people into their homes and offer them sanctuary, of a sort. If only the love and understanding that these few people show perfect strangers could be the normal behaviour of the commoner throughout the world… Just imagine.

            I was neither particularly shocked nor surprised by the brutality of the history of mental health and “medicine”. I have been aware of these and many other facts about how we humans have treated those whom we see as sick mentally and in need of… help? I do not believe that helping these people was really at the forefront of most people’s minds. Do not misunderstand, I know that most people that go into any sort of medicinal work with the intent to help others, but we have been trying to heal a part of the human-machine that has been so far outside of our ken from the dawn of self-aware man up until this century. It is really only in the last 50 -75 years that we have actually begun figuring out what parts of the brain do what and how they do it. Although it is something we are still trying to understand, it can at least be said that we are not still under the misconception that the mind is in immaterial and exists only as a part of the soul (not physical - Plato).

            What is interesting is the absolute fear of anyone that is different from what is expected.  Cavemen likely used the insane as bait for big game hunts. In ancient Ireland and Norway, if the person saw visions, they were called a seer, touched by the gods. If they raved all day, they might have been tolerated and even given some sympathy, as well as food. Whereas someone deemed dangerous would be either cast out or killed, depending on just how dangerous they were and if they had hurt anyone. Fast forward 800 years and they are being outright tortured to bleed out, drowned out, and burn out “the demons” … All because humans have disliked and feared difference for as long as we have been upright. I have actually heard, in a scarily southern accent while living in Florida, the phrase “different ain’t good”. What truly made it scary was that they were talking about me.

            For reasons both moral and personal, I have to say that I am really, honestly, very impressed with the progress of the last couple of decades and especially the last few years. Hearing celebrities, doctors, news anchors, and even just random everyday people openly speak about mental health, wellness, and “overall” well-being is impressive, to say the least, and personally, I find it comforting. I hope this trend continues and mental wellness becomes, as it should already have, a basic part of people's every day “complete” wellness practices (exercise, learning, spiritual health and/or meditation, diet, proper sleep, someone to talk to). I look forward to entering the world of Psychology with my abnormal history and experiences that I might openly speak with others and help them too, find their center.