I learnt this word – lunatic – from one of my patients. The first time I heard it, he was saying to me “you’re lunatic!” I didn’t know the meaning, but I thought it was related to “lunar”, so I was thinking the word may be saying someone whose emotion fluctuates a lot (just like how the moon changes every day). Of course he was just having fun by saying that.
But that day I heard it a second time, and checked it online later, the online free dictionary says:
1. Suffering from lunacy; insane.
2. Of or for the insane.
3. Wildly or giddily foolish: a lunatic decision.
4. Characterized by lunacy or eccentricity.”
At the same time coming out from the search is a BBC News – “How offensive is the word ‘Lunatic’?” and it mentions that the word originally “referred to a kind of insanity that recurred according to the cycles of the moon“. Hahaha so I was right to think about the moon, but still get the meaning wrong. It reminds me of Dragon Ball (hahaha) and other werewolf movies.
Anyway, it was inappropriate to use the word to “normal” people. But when my patient said that to me [jokingly], I [jokingly] said back “You’re lunatic too!” He just laughed and continued to repeat that I was lunatic…
My whole intention of this post wasn’t actually about introducing the word “lunatic”. It’s in fact an introduction…
I realized there have been quite a number of this so-called “mad” people in my life, mainly due to my work. I have also been talking quite a lot about stigmatization people hold towards those suffering from mental health problems. Whenever I thought about helping and standing up for these people, my patients come across my mind.
I thought I no longer hold these stigma and prejudices like everyone else. And I was wrong. The other day I went to Wood Green, and there was this man, I probably have seen him a few times, who was talking loudly in front of Morrisons, what he talked makes no sense. I avoided standing too close to him like everyone else, but undeniably I think he was mad, he was dangerous. (although I work in a forensic ward, but no, people with mental health problems are no more likely than “normal” people to commit crimes, or to hurt others!)
No matter how many “mad” people I have met, and how much fact about “mad” people I come to know, when I walk on the street I behave like everyone else. I’m not saying that I’m wrong behaving this way. But I realized I can only be confident to work with people with mental health problems, in a safe environment or, with patients I already know for a period of time, in any environment. I don’t have the ability to approach a ["mad"] stranger on the street and attempt to help him/her.
What can we do about this? Create a safe environment any and every where, change everyone’s attitudes towards the mental illness and the people who suffer from them.
How do we achieve that?
N.B. This post was first published in huibee.blogspot.com by the same author, when she was still working in the North London Forensic Service, UK