Stop Strengthening the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Mental Illness Stigma

Mental Health is No Joke.

You’re such a psycho.

She’s so bipolar.

What a schizo!

I often hear people use mental disorders as adjectives and for name-calling.  I hear comments like this and my blood begins to boil. They are meant to be hurtful due to the stigma that already surrounds them. However, using the terms in this way undermines the diagnoses of such conditions that many people struggle with. As John Slick says, this terminology has “seeped into our vernacular…it really gets under my skin and makes me feel like I’m less than a person and that my mental illness is not legitimate…” Even the weather has been described as bipolar. Weather isn’t bipolar. This description of the weather makes the mental condition diminutive when the opposite it true.

You nearly gave me a panic attack!

I had a total mental breakdown last night.

Not only do people use these terms as adjectives, they incorrectly use it about themselves. Many have no true understanding as to what these conditions entail. We shouldn’t use our words carelessly. John Slick explains that people may think “this is just another aspect of our politically correct generation limiting our expression…but I for one would rather think a little about what I say and be more cognizant of the words I use than risk hurting somebody unintentionally…” Right on, John! I whole-heartedly agree. 

I wish the news outlets felt the same way.

Journalism widely perpetuates stigma.

Here are some sample headlines…

Roasted Nuts Headline
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Mental Patient Headline
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Oh! And these front pages regarding DEPRESSION: 

 

Pilot Headline

Killer Pilot Headline
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These overly simplistic portrayals of depression imply someone could be a murderer or should even be ineligible to be hired.

It’s not simply depression.

Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent.

Mental illness most likely contributes to the behavior; however, so do other factors. Oftentimes “multiple overlapping factors [interact] in complex ways. These include family history, personal stressors (such as divorce or bereavement), and socioeconomic factors (such as poverty and homelessness). Substance abuse is often tightly woven into this fabric, making it hard to tease apart the influence of other less obvious factors.”

And, poor Britney…

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As this headline shows…it’s okay to poke fun at another’s mental breakdown.  Appalling!  I’ve had a mental breakdown. I can understand Britney’s behaviors. Feeling a loss of control over one’s life is horrifying.

Sensationalism in journalism is an epidemic.

Where is the human decency?

 

Robin Williams Suicide Headlines
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Journalists need to be careful regarding how not only mental illness is reported…but how suicide is reported. Click here for the do’s and don’ts of reporting suicide suggested by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

As individuals and as a society, we must be mindful regarding mental health battles.

It’s no joke.

Copyright © 2017 Alicia T-Rust. All rights reserved.

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