Our ways of thinking may be different, our minds crafted differently, but who is to deem one mind more corrupt than the other.-Halfway2hannah
When a violent crime occurs, it is assumed that the perpetrator must have been mentally ill. Has someone with diabetes ever killed someone? Yes, but we do not hear of this in the media. “His blood sugar was low which caused him/her to carry out the mass shooting…” Has a young African-American male shot someone? Yes. Does that mean that all young African-American males are murderers? No! It is natural that we want to blame “others” for negative behaviors, because it refrains us from looking in the mirror and realizing that we are all capable of corruption. Stigma is a barrier that keeps people with a mental illness from progressing in society.
6 stereotypes that influence the publics negative perception of mental illness…
1. People with mental illness are violent.
We have all seen the TV show that depicts a mass shooting or murder by an individual who is eventually diagnosed with a mental illness dun dun dun! The media connects mental illness to criminal behavior in the news, on television and in movies. If violent behavior is directly linked to mental illness, then why doesn’t the media portray individuals in ISIS as mentally ill? I assume it doesn’t follow the media’s set agenda. Framing people with mental illness as violent individuals is unfair, inconsistent and untrue.
Two things you should know…
- Research suggests that mentally ill people are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence.
- Elbogen & Johnson (2009) found in their research that, “mental illness does not predict violent behavior.
2. People with mental illness are incapable of having and/or maintaining jobs.
There are definitely people with mental illness who struggle to maintain jobs, but can we not say the same thing for many people struggling with any type of illness? This stereotype is unfair to the millions of people, with a mental illness, who work hard to maintain successful careers.
3. People with mental illness are dark and gloomy.
People with mental illness are pictured as sad and the “Debbie Downers” of the group. The stigma of mental illness refrains people from being open about it. This means that some of your most optimistic friends may struggle with a mental illness, and you are just unaware of it. When I revealed my diagnosis of BP2 to friends and family, they were shocked! “But you are so optimistic” and “You are always smiling.” It is the media’s portrayal of the ‘mentally ill’ as dark people that has you confused.
4. People with mental illness do not take care of themselves.
I will never forget when a fellow peer in college wrote a research report about mental illness, and asked if I could be a part of it. She emailed me her final paper, and as I began to read, I saw this sentence, “When I found out she had a mental illness, I could not believe it, because she wears make-up and dresses really cute.” Um…thanks I guess? This is a common misperception, that people with a mental illness wear all black, sweatpants and do not brush their hair or teeth on a daily basis. Bad hygiene is not an indicator of someone who has a mental illness.
5. People with mental illness are unpredictable.
When people hear you have a mental illness, I think an image jets across their minds of you going from 0-100 real quick! Most people are unpredictable in stressful situations that cause them to act differently than others expect. However, the response from a person with mental illness is not viewed as a natural reaction to a stressful situation, but the reaction of a “sick” individual.
6. People with mental illness cannot be trusted.
People with mental illness have many negative labels, and this leads to people not trusting them. Do you know someone, without a mental illness, who has stolen, cheated or lied? I’am assuming the answer is Yes. To deem all people with a mental illness as untrustworthy is wrong. If your instinct tells you someone cannot be trusted then go with it, rather than basing your decision on their condition not their character.
Reduce the Stigma of Mental Illness.