Whatever comes to mind: Social stigma pains mentally ill

Whatever Comes To MindBy George Flynn | Opinions Editor

Mental health is just as important as physical health. The psyche can be just as fragile as a broken bone, however, the mental spectrum of the health system is truly misunderstood in our society today.

Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day, and on this day certain participants spread awareness about issues within mental health. Many people go through struggles with surviving on a day to day basis inside their own heads. However, some members of society don’t take it so seriously or simply fear people with such mental health issues. The stigma that follows people with mental health issues can stop them from participating in normal things that people without these issues don’t think twice about.

According to an article in Mental Health America, anyone can be diagnosed with a mental illness. It lacks boundaries; anyone from any age group, race and economic background can develop one. Severe mental illness can fall into many categories including anxiety disorder, mood disorder and eating disorders. These disorders have been shown in many different forms of media. Examples are television shows which show characters with eating disorders such as Gossip Girl to celebrities with mental health issues such as former Steelers quarterback, Terry Bradshaw who has struggled with a lifelong battle with clinical depression. If people in the media suffers with mental health, why is there a stigma for people with these issues?

One large reason for the stigma surrounding this health issue is criminal action and the news coverage that it receives. The crimes being viewed specifically are homicides and mass murder sprees being blamed on the mental state rather than the person.

But this is not a new trend. There have been many portrayals in history of mental health involvement with crime. A prime example of this is the recent Aurora, Colo. shooting in 2012

James E. Holmes, who was charged with killing 12 people at a movie theater, had mental health issues which were a major focus in his case and within the media coverage.

According to a story in the The New York Times in 2013, Holmes claimed he had seen a psychiatrist prior to the shooting. He had warned a friend to stay away from him and had asked questions regarding mental health disorders.

Although this man more than likely suffers from a negatively-altered mind set, the issue at hand was a huge focus in all forms of media. His excuse of insanity for the murders has not helped the view of mental illness in our society.

People in everyday society that suffer with mental health are faced with strong consequences in our society.

According to a 2002 article published in World Psychiatry, there are three big misconceptions that create stereotypes for people with a mental illness: People with a mental illness should be feared, authoritative figures with a mental illness are irresponsible, and people with severe mental illnesses are immature and must be taken care of, whether it be in hospitals, homes or in the care of family. These views which inspire fear in the public cause people with mental illness great harm. It is difficult for them to make friends and sometimes even get jobs.

According to an article published on Medscape in 2006, people with  a mental illness history are three to five times more likely to struggle with unemployment. This social stigma has harmed the people with mental illness and should be stopped. These people face discrimination and are feared by the public. This form of isolation is even more damaging.

Mental illness is a health issue that has been misunderstood for far too long. Hopefully, within the next few years this stigma dies down and people that suffer will lose the stereotype. Mental health and the issues that grow in millions must be faced and not rejected.

George Flynn is a senior English major and can be reached at flynng@duq.edu.

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