Mentally ill are wrongfully stigmatized
You see it occasionally – the person walking down the street screaming at thin air and twitching. Some of us will laugh, some will be frightened and others will shake their heads. The common perception is one phrase: "That person is crazy."
There is no regard for the well-being of the person or his or her past history, just a concern for one’s own physical safety. The mentally ill have been one of the most persecuted groups in human history. They have been put into torture chambers, had parts of their brains removed, been beaten and given treatments that violent juntas would be proud of.
In medieval Europe, the mentally ill were considered possessed by demons and were therefore treated as such. The U.S. government forcibly sterilized the mentally ill well into the mid-20th century. The Supreme Court in Buck v. Bell upheld these practices. Now we shuffle the mentally ill in and out of asylums and prescribe them drugs with harmful side effects.
It is not acceptable to harm the mentally ill; however, it is acceptable to stigmatize them. Some people believe the mentally ill should be able to change their situation while others think they often fake or overstate their illness to get attention.
Modern psychiatry is a new science but some people want to dismiss mental illness as if it was something exaggerated. The majority of people who have a treatable mental illness do not seek professional help because of this stigma.
We live in a society where it is more acceptable to be diabetic than schizophrenic, even though both illnesses are very real and can cause irreparable harm to ones health.
Stigmas are the greatest stumbling block to recovery from mental illness since they prevent treatment. Some even argue it carries into the world of health insurance, since there are limits on services for the mentally ill. Medicare limits the amount of time a patient can stay in psychiatric hospitals to 190 days in an entire lifetime. Private companies are not innocent either. Most of the current psychiatric medicines, which have fewer side effects than their older counterparts, are far more expensive as they have not been on the market long enough for there to be an alternative.†
Close to 500 million people worldwide have some form of mental disorder and one-fourth of the population will experience mental illness at one point in their life, according to MSN Encarta. The majority of mental disorders occur during adolescence when a person has the most chance for success. Hope remains as 70-90 percent of those treated have improved their quality of life.†
There is nothing inherently wrong with being mentally ill. People need to realize this if we want to live in a more equitable system in which someone is not inferior because they have a mental disorder.
Corgey, a political science sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].