Saturday, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day, a day to create awareness about the various forms of mental health and its impact. As a sufferer myself, I thought I knew everything about it, but I’ve been shocked this week by discovering that the people behind this day are highlighting the problem of shackling. I’d never heard of it, and wish I still hadn’t, because it is heartbreaking. In 60 different countries around the world, people with mental health problems are being shackled, either in cages, cells, even their beds, and they’re just left, in some cases, for years at a time. Sometimes it’s family who make the decision to shackle a family member to their beds, sometimes places exist where mental health sufferers are taken and left. No medication, no cognitive behaviour therapy, no counselling, no support, no love. You’re just left alone day after day, month after month, year after year.

It’s horrific, and it highlights not just the problem of mental health and its lack of support, but also the injustices that are done to fellow human beings. We don’t know how to help so we ignore them, shackle them to their beds, lock them up in institutions, deny them the right to live with dignity and love.

I’m so grateful that I have a Saviour who knew how to treat people. When Jesus walked the earth he did so much to give people dignity. There was the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands and was living with a man unmarried, a societal outcast I suspect. Jesus treated her with dignity and brought hope into her life. He made her feel good. Then there was Matthew the tax collector, a collaborator with the Romans, a foreign government. Jesus made him one of his most trusted apostles. Zacchaeus, another tax collector, short of stature was singled out by Jesus who chose to visit his home out of all the homes he could have chosen. He picked the home of a man despised by his community.

Perhaps my favourite true story from the Bible is the one about a man possessed by demons, so many that their collective name was Legion. These demons affected the man’s mind while giving him enormous strength. People were scared of him and he lived out of town in the tombs, whether his choice or others we’re not told. While there he was shackled many times but he was too strong. We’re told that “he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (1) What a tragic existence. Too scared to help him the people rejected him and took away his dignity. Imagine the life he must have led? Alienated from everyone, living alone and resorting to self harm to cope with his anguish. It’s a 1st century story that could so easily be a 21st century story.

This tragic man ran up to Jesus one day when he saw him, and Jesus gave him his dignity. He cast out the demons that were troubling him. The word got back to people in the town and countryside who came rushing to see what had happened. We’re told, “When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind.” (2) Isn’t that lovely? A tragic life restored. A troubled mind healed by Jesus.

Jesus will give dignity to anyone who has lost it, but you have to come to him to receive it. It’s all tied up with coming to him for salvation. The good news is, whoever you are, whatever problems you have, however painful your situation, Jesus can deal with it all. He can give you dignity, hope, happiness, security, peace. Get in touch if you would like to hear more.

Bible References:

  • Mark 5:4,5
  • Mark 5:15