By Will Green
I am studying Social Work (now) and in my social work class last Friday people were discussing the stigma against mental illness and how it comes about. Usually it comes about when people blame people with mental illness for their behaviours, for example, they might think to someone with depression, 'Why can't you just be more positive?' In this view, someone is responsible for being mentally ill because it does not get better due to the bad choices that person is making.
I was reflecting on this stigma and I believe the idea of the Fall really takes away this stigma. In the idea of the Fall, there's an idea that because of our separation from God suffering has come to humanity in many random ways, without regard to justice. For one person it could be cancer, for another person a physical disability, for another person a natural disaster, there are diseases, etc. I think obviously it could also manifest in a chemical imbalance in the brain, or generally something being wrong with the brain so that it suffers from unavoidable problems which can only be relieved through physically correcting that problem, like depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. So the mental illness has a physical cause and you cannot change this by an act of will.
If the Fall can damage every area of our lives, including our brain, then something normally under our control could be physically taken away, for example, our mental equilibrium. So being mentally ill is more like e.g. not having an arm because of an accident at work rather than being incompetent at helping yourself.
So I would say that viewing the Fall as having the power to mess up every area of our experience should help Christians relate to mentally ill people without a stigma.