Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Don’t shut Orrett Rhoden off from the world

Published:Thursday | February 7, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Orrett Rhoden


There was an article in the entertainment section of The Sunday Gleaner that I found quite distressing. I refer to that great musical treasure, Orrett Rhoden, his difficulties with mental illness and unfortunate attempts to provide solutions for this problem.

His brother and apparent caregiver has decided to isolate him from the public by restricting his movement out of his home and denying visitors.

I can sympathise with his caregiver.

Here and elsewhere, mental illness is associated with shame, suspicion, superstition and stigmatization. Friends and relatives prefer to keep their distance, resulting in a variety of additional challenges.

But social isolation is, emotionally, very costly. Social relationships are important for all of us in maintaining good health. But this is especially so for the mentally ill.

The ability to learn and memory function become impaired. Hypertension and depression soon follow, along with a sense of hopelessness and low self-esteem. The road to recovery then becomes permanently blocked.


Another great musician – Ludwig Van Beethoven – also suffered from mental illness. His contemporaries felt the condition gave him such creative power that his compositions broke the mould for classical music forever.

He wrote his most famous works during times of torment and when he was suffering psychotic delusions. But he had a close and devoted circle of friends who competed in their efforts to help him cope with his mental challenges. What a loss it would be to posterity, if his brother, Kaspar, had locked him away from his friends in an effort to protect him.

All well-thinking persons can empathise with Rhoden’s brother. He is faced with very difficult, disturbing choices. But opportunities for social engagement and mental stimulation help to keep the brain in good condition. Lack of consistent human contact can only exacerbate the problem.