Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/359

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355
THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL PAIN

THE RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL PAIN

By SMITH BAKER, M.D.

UTICA, N. Y.

IT is everywhere thought beneficent and just to recognize the demands of physical pain, and to furnish prompt and effective means for its relief. Let there be but the least significant crick or colic, the dullest ache, the most transitory throb, and it is almost universally considered uncivilized not to try to give the sufferer relief from such an intrusion upon his sense of comfort and safety.

When, however, we look at the other aspect of human suffering, the one that is much more closely intimate, and yet much less evident to observers—the psychical, the mind-and-heart side of mortal suffering—we come upon the interesting if not startling discovery that there has been, and still is, comparatively speaking, by far less attention given to the truly exceptional needs of this kind of suffering than to those of physical derivation, even though so frequently these latter are of the lower order and of the lesser significance.

Of course, it should not be inferred that the significance of mental pain has never been recognized, nor that useful attempts at amelioration have never been made. Quite a proportion of the work of the sympathetic and other helping classes has ordinarily been and is now in some way to comfort and encourage and otherwise mitigate and even cure, the mental distress of their fellows. Moreover, it can be joyfully conceded that the sick-room has always and everywhere been the scene of useful effort on the part of the more strictly professional classes, through sympathy and persuasion and cheering-up and every •other sort of constructive and kindly attention, to relieve the sufferer from everything which might add mental distress to his physical ailment. All this has been worthy, most useful, even though as yet it may be counted, chiefly as but a sort of foundation experience upon which real systems of relief shall be built, those which shall certainly be far more truly and widely successful than hap-hazard methods have hitherto proved.

But granting all this to be true and as praiseworthy as useful, it still should not appear to be far-fetched or intrusive once more to invoke still further consideration of the relative importance of mental pain, or confidently to express the hope that in the very near future the extent and depths of this shall come to be by far more adequately recognized and appreciated; and that the art of preventing and ameliorating this shall be considered as much a matter of simple duty,