Written by Madeline Head
There is a devastating stigma, negative outlook, surrounding the mentally ill. Our own President Trump grouped “sickos” and the mentally ill together. How can we still have such a catastrophic stigma surrounding mental health and illness in our society today?
The President of the United States of America implied that 43.8 million citizens were “sickos”. To label mentally ill people as “sickos” not only further creates negative stigmas and biases but also continues to discredit the reality of the illness. Mental illness is real even if you cannot see it in an X-ray. How do I know this? Just ask the countless of Americans that are currently suffering from mental illness. Or even ask the ones who don’t suffer from it but know at least one person who does. Another reinforcement of the stigma of mental illness comes from TV. Nancy Signorielli makes a statement in regards to the stigma of mental illness on television.
“Mental illness has consistently appeared in one fifth of all primetime programs, affecting 3% of the major characters. Although relatively small in numbers, the mentally ill were most likely to commit violence and to be victimized. The mentally ill characters were less likely to be employed outside the home, and if so employed were likely to be seen as failures.”
U.S. News made also made a statement in regards to mental illness portrayal on television.
“Research also suggests most media portrayals of mental illness are stereotypical, negative or flat-out wrong – meaning many people gain unfavorable or inaccurate view on those with psychological disorders simply by skimming a few sentences or picking up a remote.”
“The worst stereotypes come out in such depictions: mentally ill individuals as incompetent, dangerous, slovenly, underserving,” stated by Stephen Hinshaw, professor at University of California – Berkeley. “The portrayals serve to distance ‘them’ form the rest of ‘us’.” Here are some true and honest facts regarding mental illness. Let us fight the stigma together.
NAMI, National Alliance of Mental Illness, facts:
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. – 43.8 million, or 18.5% – experiences mental illness in a given year.
- 9% of adults in the U.S. – 16 million – had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
- 1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10-14 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15-24.
There are roughly 326 million people in the United States and 43.8 million of them suffer at some point in a year from mental illness. But we as a society are uneducated and unaware about mental health and mental illness.
People are born with mental illness and suffer from symptoms at a very early age. The American Psychological Association claims, “Child and adolescent mental health problems are at a point of crisis for our nation.”
- One out of every ten children or adolescents has a serious mental health problem, and another 10% have mild to moderate problems.
- Mental health problems in young people can lead to tragic consequences, including suicide, substance abuse, inability to live independently, involvement with the correctional system, failure to complete high school, lack of vocational success, and health problems.
- Less than half of children with mental health problems get treatment, services, or support.
- Only one in five get treatment from a mental health worker with special training to work with children.
We also continue to suffer to have the proper resources to help treat the mentally ill. Mental Health America states that “nationally, there is one mental health provider for every 529 individuals.”
*The term mental health provider includes: psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, counselors, marriage and family therapists and advanced practice nurses specializing in mental health care. Information provided by Mental Health America.
They continue to state that over 4,000 areas across the US are considered mental health professional shortage areas, leaving people to travel hours or across state lines to access services. The situation only gets worse because of low reimbursement rates combined with limited providers and high demand for help means that many do not accept insurance.
This article is not declaring which political party is sounder when it comes to the discussion of mental illness. Mental Health America states, “mental health crosses [political] party lines and that one in two Americans will deal with a mental health condition at some point in their life. Whether it is a family member, a friend, a neighbor or yourself, you will come across mental illness. Why is it then that it is still so unknown or terrifying to the public?
What is worse than people with mental illness being unfairly labeled as terrifying or “sickos”? Is that they continue to die at such high rates from suicide. At what point do we decide to do something? Education is imperative when it comes to mental illness. Most people are unaware by how many people are actually affected by mental illness, whether they experience it themselves or not.
Whether you personally believe in mental illness or not, it is real and it will only escalate if we continue to do nothing. We as a society have a responsibility to educate and provide the proper resources for those who suffer. If we don’t, many will continue to die.