The Pinion

The Stigma of Mental Illnesses

One minority group we haven't considered

Thompson Wong, assistant editor

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Our society has progressed as more people became aware of the minorities in the world, fighting for equality amongst all. But there’s still a minority group struggling with discrimination. People with mental illnesses.

My uncle, a man I only met once, suffered from bipolar disorder. I was seven years old when I met him, and he was kind and humorous. But my family members shunned him. I didn’t understand why, but that was the last time I saw him.

The problem lies with the culture we have. We instinctively distance ourselves from people with mental illness. We fall for the stereotypes of mentally ill people. Then we spread the idea of these stereotypes ourselves.

Jagannath Lamichhane, a mental health advocate, silently battled depression for two decades before he wrote an article for the Nepal Times that affected how he was seen.

“I lost more than 80 percent of my university friends,” Lamichane said to National Public Radio.

The National Alliance On Mental Illnesses reports that even though approximately 43.8 million adults in the U.S. suffer from mental illness, a vast majority of them do not seek treatment.

Dr. Graham Thornicroft, a senior author of a research paper comprised of 144 studies and more than 90,000 participants around the world on the issue, said in a statement that stigma is a toxic effect in preventing people with mental issues to seek help.

“The profound reluctance to be ‘a mental health patient’ means people will put off seeing a doctor for months, years, or even at all, which in turn delays their recovery,” Thornicroft said.

Some people claim that mentally ill people are a danger to society. In reality, these instances of dangerous mentally ill people are rare.

In a study 400 random samples of news stories, conducted by Johns Hopkins University, they found that although more than a third of all news stories were linked to violence, only three to five percent of the incidents were because of serious mental illnesses.

“We have good research evidence that news media portrayals like this do create a stigma toward individuals with mental illness,” author Emma McGinty said to Huffington Post. “But in reality, most violence is not caused by people with mental illness.”

The news is not the only type of media that is portraying mental illnesses wrong. Books like ‘The Perfectionists”, TV shows like “Wonderland” and films like “Split” are notorious for inaccuracies and often add to the stigma of mental illness. They spread false perceptions and the audience are completely unaware of it.

In order to combat this discrimination against mental illness, we have to tackle this issue the same way we fight racism, sexism and homophobia.

We first need to educate ourselves and understand what people with mental illness truly are. You know you have successfully understood when you encounter an inaccurate portrayal of mental illness and know that it is wrong. Then, we need to talk about the issue with the people around us. Instead of spreading falsehoods about the issue, share with people your new perspective. Finally, be open. It might be hard to find someone that is battling a mental illness like depression etc, but you can still be the person to offer support to anyone struggling. Not only do you combat the discrimination, but you might help someone get better.

As we continue to grow as a society, we need to be aware of other people struggling to find equality as human beings. Embracing everyone into our society is just one step closer to a happier life for everyone. We are one step closer to a better world where we connect with each other without boundaries and limits. One step closer to a brighter future that we can all look forward to. It starts with you.

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Student Voice of McKinley High School
The Stigma of Mental Illnesses