“Do mad people fall sick” was one of the search terms that somehow landed someone at my blog today. Oh I know, it must have been because I mentioned yesterday that I was feeling ill. This is a fascinating question, and I look forward to exploring it.
First there is the premise that there is something called “madness (“the quality or condition of being insane,”–The Free Dictionary).” The word “madness” instantly whisks my brain to the infamous insane asylum, or “madhouse,” called Bedlam, as the Bethlem Royal Hospital (founded 1330 c.e.) was called. The very word “bedlam” has made its way into the common parlance as a descriptor of an out-of-control chaotic situation, e.g., “my five-year-old’s birthday party was complete bedlam.”
So madness, by association, must be connected with chaos: a chaos of the mind that extends beyond what is considered “within normal limits.”
A term that was used to describe the profession now know as psychiatry was “alienist,” right up to the middle of the 20th century. Psychiatric hospitals were known as “Alien Asylums.” Brings up images of little green people peering anxiously out of barred windows, eh?
If mad people are aliens, that means that they are so completely different from “normal”people as to be considered to be in another class entirely, perhaps even another species.
But what about the “asylum” part? Asylum is a place of refuge from pursuit. The word actually goes all the way back to the Old Testament, where God commanded Moses to create cities of refuge in the Holy Land for people who had accidentally killed someone. Once in the City of Refuge, they were protected from being killed by the relatives of the accidentally slain one. So like the biblical City of Refuge or the Hotel California, you could check in, but you couldn’t check out.
So having established that mad people are aliens, and aliens are not normal, we can very well ask the question “do mad people fall sick?”
To answer this we must look at a more modern, but politically incorrect except for legalistic use, term: insanity. Breaking the word “insane” down etymologically we have in=not and sane, which come from the Latin word “sanitas”=healthy. So “insane”=not healthy. But we knew that already. That is why we call it “mental illness.”
So what the search question above seems to mean in this context is, “Can a mentally ill person, who is perceived (by the searcher) to be so alien that I do not even consider them to be part of my universe, be subject to the common physical ailments that we normal humans fall sick with?”
The answer, O ignorant one, is yes.