The Grisi siknis is known as the “crazy sickness” or “collective madness” most prominent in Central America it seems to affect many tribes in the region. Both articles describe the ineffectiveness of western medicine in healing this illness and how it should be recognized as a true disease because we should realize an illness is not solely based on biological markers but complex intertwining of various aspects of culture with human social conduct.
In the news article (Widdicombe) they explain that 60 people of the remote jungle tribe in Nicaragua known as the Miskito. The sickness allows for the person to go into deep unconsciousness sort of in a deep trance then suddenly wake up to a manic episode where they run wildly trying to escape from “invisible enemies”. Most commonly the illness is found to strike women but is known to ransack through entire villages. During the manic episode “victims often rip off their clothes, flee into the forest or the murky, fast-flowing river, and appear to develop superhuman strength. In such a crazed state, these women are difficult to stop. With their eyes closed, and armed with machetes or sticks, they think nothing of attacking whoever or whatever stands between them and the mysterious force that beckons”(Ross). Once someone is a victim of the illness it cause a sort of hysteria among the surrounding people which might indicate for a high incidence rate since so argue it’s a psychological and spiritual matter.
In the news article mentioned they tried using anti-convulsive drugs and anti-depressants but that they were ineffective. They then tried testing the local drinking water and advised the locals to drink coconut juice since in past outbreaks investigation concluded that people had put hallucinogenic substances in the water, but nothing was found. Then moving onto Miskito healers many of the victims were reported to being healed 15 to 30 days later, using the ancient rituals of the native healers. Thus western trained doctors were left to only aid and support the healers because of their effectiveness with the illness.
-Nicola Ross, “Nicaragua’s Crazy Sickness: an indigenous community grapples with a mysterious ailment”, The Walrus Magazine, June 2006 Magazine (online), Link: http://thewalrus.ca/nicaraguas-crazy-sickness/?ref=2006.06-anthropology-nicaragua-grisi-siknis&page=
-Rupert Widdicombe, “Nicaragua Village in grip of Madness”, The Guardian, News, December 2003 News (online), Link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/dec/17/1