Originally Posted by reprise85
obviously it's impossible to tell, but those with serious psychotic mental illness probably died early from misadventure or suicide or execution (assuming that's how tribes dealt with criminals/people that made them vulnerable to other groups etc). those with extreme depression likewise died early. but the main non-biochemical source of mental anguish - namely, other people - presumably hasn't changed
I think it also depends on the culture of the society.
I remember reading about how some places in the developing world have higher rates of remission for schizophrenia than we've got here in the West. Despite the fact that their understanding of the condition is less advanced, and they attribute it to daemonic possession or something rather than having the idea that it has to do with issues in the brain.
Their higher rate of success with the illness isn't evidence of their explanation for it being closer to the truth than our's. Rather, it was how they deal
with the condition. Instead of isolating those affected like we tend to do here, the community makes an effort to keep the afflicted person integrated in society, keep them working in manageable jobs so they still feel useful to society, give them lots of support, etc. They likely do this in hopes that the person will be able to exorcise those daemons, but the result ends up being that whatever negative environmental factors that aggravate psychosis are diminished.
Assuming that some developing societies are closer to pre-industrial societies than ours is, this could be how some societies back then also
dealt with mental illness. But of course, it's documented that many of them thought the ill as dangerous and executed or shunned them.
As the world is homogenizing through globalisation, there was probably more variation in how communities dealt with anything
in the past than there is now. Which makes it that much harder to make general comparisons between the present and the past.