By Andy Greene
During the chaotic era that was the middle ages, mental health was not exactly a priority for most people. With even the most rudimentary physical healthcare as bare bones as it was, you can truly imagine just the state of mental health care—i.e. nearly nonexistent. There were, however, some forms of “treatment” to those who were struggling—mainly tied to religion. Starvation, stonings, and other needless brute force tactics were common “treatments.” (1) Needless to say, if you were struggling with a mental illness during this time, you probably weren’t going to fare well.
Many religious people throughout history (and still a few people today) believed that demons were the cause of mental illness, performing exorcisms—sometimes violent—on innocent people. It was often treated like a psychical condition that could be forced out. Fun fact: the original term for depression is thought to be “melancholia,” derived from an ancient medical belief that an excess of black bile was the cause of persistent sadness. In ancient Greek, “melan” means black, and “kholé” means bile. (2) The word “melancholy” is still used today to describe deep and persistent sadness. Thankfully, nowadays we aren’t being professionally drained of any bile or being exorcised of any demons for depression and other mental illnesses.
There is still much too large a percentage of people that buy into old stigmas and don’t want to associate with someone who is suffering from a mental health condition. One study found that roughly 68% of Americans didn’t want someone with a mental illness marrying into their family, and that 58% didn’t even want those with mental illness at their workplaces! (3) It’s very sad that people still think like this. If you ever get the chance, go out there and educate others! Even if it’s just your friends or coworkers, it never hurts to help try and change someone’s mind.
It’s no wonder, then, that even now people struggle to seek help for themselves. Here’s the thing, though: the stigma is in fact shrinking, and people are becoming more understanding as time goes on. It is incredibly important to surround yourself with a support system that understands you and doesn’t judge you based on things that you can’t help! So long as you maintain healthy relationships, and stay out of any time machines, you should be alright. Never feel afraid to seek professional help.
Nemade, Rashmi. “Historical Understandings of Depression.” Gracepoint Wellness, https://www.gracepointwellness.org/5-depression-depression-related-conditions/article/12995-historical-understandings-of-depression
Ban, Thomas A. From Melancholia To Depression: A History of Diagnosis and Treatment. International Network for the History of Neuropsychopharmacology, 2014, http://inhn.org/fileadmin/previews_new/From_Melancholia_to_Depression_March_6_2014.pdf
Dingfelder , Sadie F. “Stigma: Alive and Well .” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, June 2009, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/06/stigma