My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
Today, the insistence is that ‘we’ are all in this together, even as social disparity – the frailty of that ‘we’ – has never been so obvious: in the gulf that exists between families with gardens and those housed in airless, cladded tower blocks, a distinction disregarded by police rounding on people in parks; between the jogging culture of North London and the slums of Bangladesh, where the idea of social distancing, let alone of soap and hand sanitisers in abundance, is a sick joke; between the medical care given to the prime minister, assigned an ICU bed at a time of acute shortage while still fit enough – or so we were initially told – to govern, and the negligence suffered by Thomas Harvey, a nurse from East London who had worked in the NHS for twenty years, whose family were advised he didn’t need to go to a hospital (they called four times) before he died gasping for air in his bathroom.BACK TO TOP