The Dark Ages versus modern understanding of mental illness.
I am worried about the trend of blaming mentally and emotionally ill young people ‘Satanists’. It takes us back to pre-modern thought about how the brain works. When we needed to stake a vampire or refuse a person who commits suicide a church burial...or did lobotomies...or beat the devil out of people...
People can do all sorts of awful things when they are mentally ill, on drugs or drunk. They can even accept strange beliefs that we might then give names – like Satanism or whatever is fashionable or in their environment at the time.
Drugs and alcoholism can create psychosis. And Schizophrenia’s onset is usually sometime in ones teens.... hearing voices, acting out ‘orders’, seeing some people as ‘devils’ – all very ‘average’ problems for the person suffering from a psychosis...
And some of the illegal drugs we are seeing now are known to create violent behaviour.
People don’t become ‘Satanists’ because they are ‘children of the devil – they become ‘Satanists’ and start acting in ways that are harmful to other or themselves because they are mentally ill in some way. Or are under the influence of mind altering substances.
Depressives may commit suicide because they turn their anger and hate on themselves. Psychotic people (or people further from ‘normal’ neurosis and closer to psychosis) often need to rid themselves of ‘bad feelings’ and to do this they project them on others – sometimes but NOT always in violent ways.
Even psychotic peoples psychosis is not as random as we think it. It will have an inner ‘sense’ to that person and may even be quite ‘logical’ if they can tell it to you.
As long as we have children with traumatic childhoods we will have people becoming mentally ill. Yes there may be all sorts of genetic influences at play but patterns are laid at infancy and in childhood by the environment they are in. Very few children from homes where parents are ‘good enough’ in the Winnicott- ian sense turn to crime.
I am very far from thinking we should not police crime or have laws and prisons – and hospitals for the criminally insane. Some people unfortunately do become so out of control and dangerous that we do need to find ways of protecting the rest of society from them – and even from themselves. Unfortunately in SA we do not really have enough resources to ‘cure’ all those who do wrong.
The only way to really do good and prevent crime is to change childhoods in SA. We need to make children and their healthy development in all ways our priority. Once damage is done it needs hard, long and expensive work to put it right.
We need to ensure that children have present parents and are not passed from relative to relative especially in their first years, that they not be unquestioning ‘servants’ of the adults, that their emotional needs are met adequately, that parents have guidance and support especially if the parenting they received was inadequate.
We need properly trained and passionate teachers, small classes, psychologists in each school....
So please – especially journalist – bow to the knowledge collected over the last 150 years or so and consult someone trained – preferably a psychologist, psychotherapist or even a psychoanalyst (we have some in SA) when something like this boy of 14 goes on a terrifying rampage – and lets climb out of the dark ages!