Pharaoh to Freud
Some four thousand years ago, the ancient Egyptians did not
differentiate between mental and physical illnesses; they believed that
despite their manifestations, all diseases had physical causes. They thought
the heart was responsible for mental symptoms. Hippocrates and the early
Greeks believed as well that all illness resulted from a biological malfunction;
in the case of depression, from an excess of"black bile."
The ancients may have been off
the.mark as to specific causes, but their non pejorative view of mental
suffering and their search for medical causes were right on track.
progressed, however, the "mind" view of mental illness came to predominate,
and with it the conviction that the victim was to blame. Possession by
evil spirits, moral weakness, and other such "explanations" made a stigma
of mental illness and placed the responsibility for a cure on the resulting
outcasts themselves. The most apparently ill were chained to walls in institutions
such as the infamous Bedlam, where the rest of society could forget they
Supposedly more humane era, we have freed the mentally ill from institutions
and, instead of providing Continuing care, have left them to fend for themselves.
Forced to be aware of them, we disdain the crazies out there and wish they
would get it together and behave themselves; down deep, we really believe
that if they had the strength of character, they would straighten out.
The stigma of illness of the mind
is all-pervasive. If we or members of our families experience menial illness,
the shame may prevent us from seeking available help or even from following
the doctor's advice. Physicians often fail at effecting a cure because
patients resist taking the prescribed medication.
of Status or Money
take mind away
functions of the brain affected
MARK S. GOLD M.D.