The untimely death of Jesus of Nazareth may have been prevented if his severe and persistent mental illness had been properly treated, but alas, there were no miraculous antipsychotic medications 2000 years ago, and they, unfortunately, were forced to crucify the young man.
No, my friends, there was no NAMI Nazareth to assist the needy Joseph and Mary. Count your blessings.
We can see from Jesus’ family history that his mother, Mary, also suffered from untreated delusions and hallucinations. At the age of fourteen, young Mary believed she was visited by an Archangel named “Gabriel” whom she claimed appeared in order to inform her that she was pregnant with the Son of G-d. Mary suffered also from command hallucinations in which, she felt, the angel was ordering her to name her baby Jesus. It is common for schizophrenia to run in families. In fact, Mary’s mother Anna was also afflicted with hallucinatory visions of angels.
Mary’s much older guardian, Joseph the Carpenter, upon discovering her predicament, was not pleased. He was determined to leave Mary and dismiss her entirely. The stress of being unwed and pregnant in ancient times, may have triggered Mary’s genetic predisposition to mental illness, the very same illness that Jesus went on to develop during early adulthood. Joseph opted instead to assist in concealing Mary’s crime, and they were secretly married by the high priest.
Indeed, this was a troubled family, prone to instability and homeless wandering. Jesus himself was born under less than sanitary conditions, surrounded by animals and their droppings, which gives credence to the possibility that he may have been infected at birth with a schizo-virus found in the animal fecal matter. Upon the birth of Jesus, three social workers visited to assess the situation, and provided some limited assistance. Yet, even with the large taxes being assessed in Bethlehem, there was insufficient funding for helping these displaced and mentally ill homeless individuals, and Mary and baby Jesus fell through the cracks of a cold, uncaring system. No, My friends, there was no Mother’s Act. Without the support of Joseph, Mary and Jesus may have succumbed much sooner to the ravages of untreated schizophrenia.
Even as a young child, it seems Jesus’ symptoms were evident. He had few friends due to his outrageous and risky behavior, and many parents chose to disallow their own children from playing with young Jesus. Perhaps, it was during this time of social isolation that Jesus began to develop pathological personality traits which were exacerbated by his untreated brain illness. By the time he reached adulthood at the age of 12, Jesus was struggling with his symptoms. He chose to run away to Jerusalem, believing he was told to go home to his “father”, G-d. Joseph had passed away around this time, and Jesus became the sole supporter for his mother and himself. Again, they had fallen on hard times, losing their property and fighting poverty. “No adolescent youth who has lived or ever will live on this world or any other world has had or ever will have more weighty problems to resolve or more intricate difficulties to untangle.”
“Jesus attained his full physical growth. He was a virile and comely youth. He became increasingly sober and serious, but he was kind and sympathetic. His eye was kind but searching; his smile was always engaging and reassuring. His voice was musical but authoritative; his greeting cordial but unaffected…yet he was developing a somewhat fluctuating and aggressive temperament.” Jesus began to engage in violent behavior, entering the temple and turning over the furniture in a rage. He spoke of receiving messages from G-d, of whom he claimed to be the son sent to redeem humanity. Jesus roamed the streets in his delusional state, speaking of things that no one else could understand. His rants and rages became the focus of the authorities, and Jesus was arrested.
No, my friends, there was no jail diversion for the severely and persistently mentally ill back in those days. There were no state of the art psychiatric facilities that could contain Jesus, keeping him and others safe from his bizarre ideas and vagrant wandering. The authorities did not understand that Jesus had a serious brain illness. In ignorance and hatred, they crucified him. Jesus became just another statistic, a tragic victim of his untreated severe mental illness.
But today, we have neuroleptic drugs and NAMI. Today we could have prevented Jesus’ wandering and ranting, his threats about the end times, his disruptive behaviors. His loving NAMI family could have called 911 as soon as he started turning over the tables at temple, and specially trained CIT officers would subdue, lovingly restrain Jesus for safety, and remove him from society to a safe haven of psychiatric care, where he would be given highly effective medications that would allow for his peaceful and productive re-entry into society.
You’ve come a long way NAMI…Amen.