After three days traveling, I was not in the best mental health. Between the mania and depression, I was struggling to figure out how to make it the rest of the trip. Then, a phrase gave me more clarity about where I was.
“Don’t tell anyone you’re mentally ill.” There are few phrases that can strike more fear in someone whose brain functions differently than others. After hearing the phrase, I decided I needed to learn even more and do something.
People of faith in Zimbabwe have long declared that mental illness is a result of the demonic. When someone is struggling to keep control of their mind, they’re often restrained and/or beaten until the demon comes out. When the restraint and/or beating doesn’t work, people are sometimes killed. When I asked a nurse how often this happens, she said, “Regularly.” Even in death the mentally ill are stigmatized and shamed. The mentally ill dead not allowed to be buried with their family and it’s assumed that one can still get the demon once they’re in the ground. When I inquired why more money isn’t spent to educate people, another healthcare told me, “Mental illness is not profitable in this country.” No matter where I go, money seems to drive morals. Another teacher told me, “Let me assure you, in Zimbabwe it is more dangerous to be mentally ill than it is to be gay.” Due to the lack of information in the United States about the struggles of the mentally ill in Zimbabwe, I had no idea. Due to the struggle to secure widespread information, it is difficult to speak to the number of people killed. With as much as 10% of the population suffering from some form of serious mental illness, the healthcare professionals I spoke with estimated that thousands are killed each year.
When I thought about how Jesus would respond to such oppression and marginalization, I didn’t have to think long about what my sermon is going to be on Sunday:
The Mentally Ill God.
More Info on Mental Illness in Zimbabwe :
Refugee Review Tribunal of Australia Report: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4b6fe323d.pdf