Freedom: A Right Or Mental Illness?

“Mental health as a profession is  practiced  waaaay different from how true, positive mental health is experienced.”

This was a statement made by a friend of mine who, by the world’s standards, would be considered a little unstable. A former therapist herself at one of the top universities of the nation, and just one course of study away from her Ph.D., she decided she had had enough. She turned in her resignation and ran away [not walked] from a $ 50,000-a-year job, never to return. That was over 9 years ago.

Many of us do it. Putting in long hours at a job we care nothing about. Some stay for the prestige, some stay for the perks. Most stay because they feel they have no other choice. By society’s standards, it’s completely normal to think that we have to work all day, giving our time and energy away to something we care absolutely nothing about just to make a living. Working all day toward something we don’t care about is self-bondage, and unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to believe that placing oneself in a state of self-bondage is a normal state of being.

During the plantation era, Africans who wanted to escape from slavery were considered mentally deranged, even among other slaves. Slaves who wanted their freedom and who chose to ‘go against the grain’ were given a mental illness status and diagnosis by the name of ‘drapetomania’. This was a label coined by Samuel Cartwright, a man who was also considered the  “Father of Psychiatry”.  

According to Cartwright, drapetomania is a mental illness akin to alienation [madness]. He said that slaves should be kept in a submissive state and treated like children, with “care, kindness, attention, and humanity to prevent and cure them from running away”. In addition to Cartwright identifying drapetomania, he was gracious enough to prescribe remedies for this disease. In the case of a slave being “sulky and dissatisfied without cause” – a sure sign the slave was considering running away – Samuel Cartwright prescribed “whipping the devil out of them” as a “preventative measure.” Doctors also made running away a physical impossibility by prescribing the removal of both big toes.

Now things may not be as drastic today as far as prescribed measures go when it comes to people being “sulky and dissatisfied” about their current place in society and who do actually “run away”, but the stigma is still the same. No, people aren’t having “the devil whipped out of them” or toes removed, but anti-depressants are being prescribed in droves to keep people in their place.


The subtle notion of self-bondage, that’s equated somehow to self-discipline or being a responsible human being, is also a preventative measure used to keep today’s “slaves” in check. To even consider the thought of “escaping” bondage is insane or just plain irresponsible, to say the least.

Now with the current pandemic and other streams of fear-based information that is being presented daily to the public, the question we need to ask is this:

Will more people who desire freedom from these set norms be acknowledged as a right, or will the diagnosis of mental illness be on the rise? 


True, positive mental health is having the ability to step away and out of any human condition that is no longer serving you, and to transcend to a higher and nobler self. Treating any effect as though it is the cause will never provide a sound mental health system for its people. Stepping out of your mental slavery to acquire mental health is a personal right and a very intimate journey. It should always be a welcomed process taking place in anyone’s life, and not a shameful means to discovery.

Tell us your thoughts. Have you thought about wanting something totally different from what’s expected of you but are too afraid to put it into action?

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