An unsteady ladder leads to a fall and a broken arm. The drive to the hospital ends with a cast and a promise to be more careful. When our bodies are hurt or sick, the cause is identified and the treatment helps us mend.
This is not so easily the case with our minds. The causes of mental illness do not show up on an X-ray and they can not be seen through the lens of a microscope.
Today, we have an understanding of these problems that puts our previous misconceptions into hard perspective. However, this frontier still needs much attention and exploration.
On October 10, we pause to observe World Mental Health Day and lend our strength to those who suffer and those who heal.
The ancient Egyptians and Greeks drew no distinction between illness of the body and illness of the mind, believing that the physical being was the cause of all disease.
Although civilizations developed, our understanding of mental illness remained no better than the dark places that passed as asylums and hospitals until the late 1700s.
In 1769, Benjamin Rush founded the concepts of American psychiatry in Williamsburg, Virginia. It took another 100 years for his ideas to take root.
The end of World War I brought about our modern recognition of the causes of mental illness. Only then did the medical field begin to identify and classify symptoms and treatments.
The World Federation for Mental Health was established in 1948 to focus our awareness on mental disorders. This global organization champions prevention, care and education, and it marked the first World Mental Health Day in 1992.
Mental illness is still not completely free from the ignorance of stigma and prejudice, so it is remarkable that we have this day. However, the very presence of this day on our calendars is reason to hope we will reach a level of understanding that embraces everyone who suffers.
We have traveled very far along this road and today we pledge to keep that journey strong and focused. This frontier will be conquered.