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?
It was a kangaroo court … that’s why I withdrew. I knew they had the big guns there waiting to fire so I limited myself in getting into the debate. I have an international reputation to protect. The debate jumped on the bandwagon of free intellectual debate as part of UCT’s centenary celebrations, but it was actually a kangaroo court . I knew it had one goal – to expose me and shut me up. There had been that demeaning and unprofessional letter to the Cape Times from my colleagues at Groote Schuur [Hospital], so I knew there was a body of opinion out there looking for my blood…. whenever I was criticised, they clapped. That’s when I said, OK, I’m cutting my losses and not saying anything more. I can read an audience. The moment I said something, it didn’t matter whether I was right or wrong, I could see the hostility was rising. I decided the audience was not mature enough, so I’m out of here.’BACK TO TOP