Reading more about mental illnesses in the United States has prompted me to write about one of the most important problems existing today in our civilized society. According to an article written on the Treatment Advocacy Center website stigmas impact the seriously mentally ill persons (SMI) more than people realize. It is important to point out that these stigmas impacts the individual’s confidence, self-esteem, hope and realization that they are basically cast aways due to having mental disabilities that many people just don’t take the time to understand and deal with appropriately.
Because of unwarranted stigmas, society has impacted the world of those SMI persons in a manner none would understand unless exposed to their difficulties and barriers. There are two dominant factors that have caused more grief than anything else in my opinion. The first factor the gross misunderstandings of these SMI persons and the second being this misunderstanding conveying the wrongful attitudes that often results in the criminalization of these SMI persons in our communities and eventually our jails and prisons.
Stigmas are abundant for those individuals that have severe psychological problems or disorders. Because of wrongful inferences and misunderstandings these people are denied normal social opportunities that range from housing, employment, relationships and persistent discrimination. The sad fact is that these stigmas are increasing rather than decreasing over the last decades as more media coverage is now focused on the mentally ill involved in mass shootings or other tragedies.
Since the Newtown CT mass school shooting there has been more emphasis on the mentally ill and gun control but nothing has been done to correct or improve these stigma related problems, in fact, they have been exponentially annoyed with the mentally ill persons since the shooting as society is lumping every SMI person into one group – a group of violent people. This is a most ridiculous concept and is very much off the scale from telling the truth
Regardless we as a society must admit that we are wrong and that in order to reduce violence we must increase treatment for those seriously mentally ill persons within our communities. Dealing with the perception [an erred one at that] that individuals with mental illness are dangerous we must be willing to work on reducing these dangers by increasing the funding and resources needed to bring this problem within parameters that are socially acceptable and reduce stigmas as well as these false perceptions that all mentally ill persons are dangerous and violent.
Government officials, mental health providers and advocates need to come together and begin national awareness campaigns designed to educate the public that SMI persons are not necessarily dangerous and begin this anti-stigma campaign immediately. At the same time find alternatives to criminalization these persons with mental disabilities and find the appropriate resources in our community to assist those with disabilities to become better neighbors and members of our society. It is also important that every time there is an incident where a violent act has been committed by a mentally ill person, the media takes the time to clarify the fact that not all seriously mentally ill persons are dangerous or violent.
Pescosolido BA, Martin JK, Long JS, Medina TR, Phelan JC, Link BG. “A disease like any other”? A decade of change in public reactions to schizophrenia, depression, and alcohol dependence. American Journal of Psychiatry 2010;167:1321-1330.
Phelan JC, Link BG, Stueve A, Pescosolido BA. Public conceptions of mental illness in 1950 and 1996: what is mental illness and is it to be feared? Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2000;41:188-207.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, 1999.
Schizophrenics battle stigma, myths in addition to disease. USA Today, June 8, 2008.
Jarvik E. Mental health clients fear growing stigma. The Deseret News [Salt Lake City, Utah], April 24, 1999.
Pescosolido BA, Monahan J, Link BG et al. The public’s view of the competence, dangerousness, and need for legal coercion of persons with mental health problems. American Journal of Public Health 1999;89:1339-1345.
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