Prachya Review, August 2019
Mental health is vital to function in our lives and it provides reason through our cognitive thought. It allows us to make sense of ourselves and the world around us. For example, when a child is hugged by their parents they know it means they are loved.
But what if our ability to live a stable life though these rational processes is suddenly removed? The people around us might view us as a stigma of society. They might be tempted to label us as bi-polar, schizophrenic, and mad; even call us insane.
We think we are far removed from these kinds of people, the mentally unfit, but maybe we’re not; especially us writers, who deal with the inner workings of the mind on a regular basis. Through literature we seek to understand mental illness as we characterize these kinds of people, experiencing their lives of mental anguish.
For example, the famous story by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Tell Tale Heart”, tells about a mad man who murdered an elderly person because of the haunting look in his eye. It is difficult to understand this insane individual’s motives, yet when we read it, we do see a process at work there. It helps us attempt to understand the cycle of madness through time.
Poe’s story was written in a period of transition, 1843. He wrote it during the pre-modern era, back when people still held the belief that mental illness came from demons. There was still a role for the supernatural among the insane and Poe made plenty of room for it.
But by the turn of the century, the modern belief that madness was purely clinical and could be treated as such, dominated the mindset of the western world. Modern thought stated that the right kind of medication could prevent murders, ravings, and other symptoms of mental illness, the kind of sicknesses in Poe’s nightmare scenarios. Modern thought viewed mental illness as completely beholden to science. Man was a bunch of chemicals, so a mixture of the right chemicals would cure man.
This was man trying to explain everything through science.
Now we’ve arrived at the postmodern era. Mental health is still viewed in a scientific light, but there are also things about it that science cannot explain. Some people have turned to meditation and self-help books to maintain their mental health. Some have used herbs and have performed spiritual rituals to cure a person from mental illness. Some have decided that the power is in the mind and they have the ability to evolve into the best version of themselves. There is a combination of supernatural and natural processes and an underlying mystery behind mental health and mental illness.
In this issue, we attempt to explore the mystery. We take a closer look at our mental health through fiction. We embark to answer some perplexing questions. How is our humanity defined by our mental health? What is madness? What’s it like to battle with our thoughts?
We place ourselves in the eyes of characters clashing with their mental faculties, experiencing their struggles and triumphs. In this way we hope we can better know ourselves and understand our intricate psychology.
Let us take this journey together!