I’ve got an article in The Observer on the misunderstood relationship between truth and madness.
The definition of a ‘delusion’ has just been changed so it no longer has to be considered a ‘false belief’.
It turns out that this issue turns up regularly in world events, owing to the sad tendency for whistle-blowers to be ‘accused’ of being ‘mentally ill’ when others don’t like what they’re saying.
It’s not clear who forcibly sedated her in 1972. It’s not certain that she was admitted to a psychiatric ward in the following year. What’s definite though is that many people thought she was mad as she ranted about conspiracies in the White House during eccentric phone calls to the press. Questions about Martha Beall Mitchell’s sanity were encouraged by the Nixon administration, who consistently briefed against her and probably had her medicated against her will. But ultimately her claims were proven correct when the Watergate scandal broke.
It’s worth bearing in mind that we’re not talking about the everyday use of the term ‘delusion’ (typically meaning mistaken) but the psychiatric definition which describes intensely held beliefs that are impervious to reality.
They are fascinating in many ways but, as the article discusses, they do not necessarily mean that the person is wrong.
Link to Observer article on truth and delusion.