11 August, 2022

Devilish possession or mental illness?

Mental health

Mental pathologies are a kind of invisible enemy. Its intangibility promotes all kinds of suspicions

Image for illustrative purposes (Courtesy).
By Dra. Margarita Mendoza Burgos

Mental pathologies are a kind of invisible enemy. Its intangibility promotes all kinds of suspicions, ranging from denial or disbelief to segregation of the affected patient. It is also quite common for many to mistake mental health problems for diabolical possessions., as if that inexplicable evil could only be the work of dark forces.

It is precisely the ignorance that leads to think something like this. further, it is much easier to attribute the evil and inexplicable to the devil than to science. Higher education is less common for this to happen, but even some religions favor the beliefs of the devil's possessions instead of using scientific arguments.

 In the general population there is little information about mental illnesses and unfortunately there is little diffusion of them, especially from governments.

In cases like this, where religious and medical themes converge, it's hard to break that stigma without being confrontational and even risking being called an atheist at best, or even receive physical punishment in less tolerant religions.

For many centuries, schizophrenia was associated as a diabolical evil rather than a disease, since symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations did not fit in another concept. By then, when no one was talking about mental disorder, hearing voices and behaving strangely was thought to be an unmistakable sign of possession. The same happened with other pathologies of the same type such as Tourette's Syndrome or epilepsy. Who else could make a person convulse than the devil himself?

Although the population is more informed than in those times, there is still a lot of confusion and ignorance, and that is the ideal terrain for those who say "exorcise" can do their great business. In Europe, for example, an exorcist can earn up to 15,000 dollars with the trade of chasing away evil spirits from the body.

It is true that there are good and very professional people trying to help, but also a series of charlatans who all they want is to deceive customers until they can squeeze as much money as possible.

This phenomenon occurs in all religions, as dark forces abound in all beliefs, in any case they only change their name and shape. further, there is the denial factor: for many it is easier to focus on trying to "cast out evil spirits" rather than working on the real issues that lie within.

In that sense, the statements of priest Mike Driscoll are interesting, author of the book Demons, Deliverance, Discernment: Separating Fact from Fiction about the Spirit World. “A Catholic once told me that he had heard that most people admitted to mental hospitals suffered from demonic attacks., instead of mental health problems. It's silly. While the devil tempts us all, especially in our weak points; the people I visit every day in our mental health unit struggle with real mental and emotional problems ", confessed.

 This comes from the beginning of time, when it was not possible to ascribe an evil to a known external agent - such as a dagger, an accident or a bad meal- and therefore it was considered a work of the devil. For worse, Most of the cases, mental or neurophysiological diseases have quite spectacular symptoms until they are usually medicated. Without education, without information and without dissemination campaigns, mental illnesses will have to live with their own stigma until they can get rid of it.