The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

Redefining Insanity

What makes someone “insane?”

How often do you hear someone say, “you’re insane?” Most of the time, the speaker does not actually believe that person is insane, but the word is nonetheless used frequently.

What defines insanity?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, insanity is, “a deranged state of the mind,” but what is that, exactly?

Albert Einstein said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, but that’s probably not the first thing that comes to someone’s mind when they picture an insane person. Perhaps a blank-faced, straggly haired, feeble looking individual walking purposelessly around a mental institution fits the stereotype of insanity.

Because of the term’s ambiguity, psychologists don’t usually use it as a diagnosis. Insanity is now mainly used in the courtroom by the defendant pleading that they didn’t know wrong from right at the time of the crime.

Instead of the blanket term insanity, mental patients are diagnosed with more specific ailments today, such as dementia, or schizophrenia, or…dehydration?

That’s right. Jason Russell, creator of the “Kony 2012” video, was arrested in California after his near-nude outburst in the streets of San Diego.

Ben Keesey, the CEO of Invisible Children, which Russell co-founded, made a statement saying that Russell was hospitalized for dehydration, malnutrition, and exhaustion, which led to his scandalizing rant.

Even though Russell is an able-bodied man who does not fit the above outline of insanity, his actions were outlandish. Is he insane? Everyone has a breaking point, but not very many people cross it in such a public way.

In today’s culture, a public display of that kind of weakness of mind might be all it takes to label someone insane, but thankfully, the world of psychiatry has more specific requirements. Mental illnesses are diagnosed more specifically, and patients are treated as individuals. Insanity is reserved for the courtroom.

So how does the court decide if the defendant is insane? The McNaughton Rules were created in 1843 to defend Daniel McNaughton after he shot the secretary of the Prime Minister of England.

The summary of the rules is that if the defendant was either not aware of what he was doing, or not aware that it was wrong, then he is not guilty, due to insanity. The rules are still used today in some cases, but temporary insanity is a hard concept to prove.

There are many definitions of insanity, both in the casual and the formal senses of the word.

The incident of Russell’s outburst may be a candidate for the title of insanity, but if it was caused by dehydration and exhaustion, college students beware!

Most of us stay in a constant state of exhaustion, and hydration is inconvenient.

You might be closer to a Russell situation than you think. My humanitarian suggestion of the day is, the next time you see a naked man clapping in the street, offer him a glass of water and a snack.

Mari is a sophomore majoring in English and music (piano). 

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