Issues, Trends, and Historical Perspectives
The treatment and outlook on mental health, mental illness and developmental disability has come a long way over the years. Mental health refers to a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can manage everyday stresses of life, can work productively, and are able to make a contribution to the community. Most tend to define mental illness as the absence of mental health, which isn’t exactly helpful or even accurate. There has been many theories and explanations throughout the years, many extreme and now proven incorrect. Developmental disability shows to be easier to define; it is often mistaken for mental retardation. While mental retardation may be covered under the developmental disability spectrum, there are many other disabilities under the wide umbrella. These disabilities include, epilepsy, autism, fetal exposure to drugs, and hundreds more. Our knowledge and understanding of things such as developmental disabilities have come a long way since the beginning of human existence.
The Ancient Greeks and Romans in particularly saw themselves as superior to everyone else all other races, and their disabled were often forced into slavery, horrid conditions and suffered religious persecution. In retrospect, the Ga from Accra in Ghana treated the mentally ill with respect and awe. They believed the mentally ill were the reincarnation of a God. And in Benin, children born with abnormalities were thought to have been protected by the supernatural and to have carried good luck.But In the 15th century, the Renaissance era spread with haste across Europe. This brought the expansion of Art and Science bringing along advancements in understanding of the mentally disabled. In one of the first recorded references on the subject mental disability in 1552 B.C, the Therapeutic Papyrus of Thebes contains copied material dating back to the mid 1300’s that ancient Egyptians recorder on papyrus explaining the first medicinal terms and remedies. Before the 4th century, there was no recorded information regarding research to help people with disabilities cope with the everyday challenges of life.
During the 16th Century, a French theologian and pastor John Calvin, declared that persons with disabilities were possessed by evil spirits, and therefore subjected people to mental and physical pain to “rid the haunted of demons”(Bryan). Greek Physician, Hippocrates believed there was a natural cause to mental illness due to a punishment from God and suggested uses of herbs, prayer, relaxation, and a healthy diet. His studies promoted scientific study of abnormal behavior, and opened doors for later researchers and Physicians.
Through the Middle Ages, everything was dominated by the idea of a higher power, or “God.” Around 1600 Queen Elizabeth of England pressed Parliament to Pass a series of laws to take care of the poor and mentally disabled, known as the Elizabethan Poor Laws....