ICBioethics Blog 

Addressing the Stigmas of Mental Illness

Written by: Barbara Postol

There are a lot of misconceptions that exist about many forms of mental illness. For example, often people tend to believe that people with schizophrenia are prone to violence. This is not true. People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to harm themselves or commit suicide, but certainly not hurt others. The illness has hallmarks of auditory or visual hallucinations or paranoia, not violent tendencies. In fact, the majority of people who kill or harm others do not have mental illness. This type of misinformation is harmful and does a disservice for many with a mental illness and hampers treatment.

A mental illness is no different than a physical illness. If a person is sick with the flu, there is no shame going to a doctor for help to get better. But take that same person sick with a major depressive episode; it changes a bit doesn’t it? Maybe they just need to get out more, or perk up?  This view must end. Telling a person who is having a panic attack to just calm down or a person in the dark valley of depression to cheer up is about the same as telling a person who is six feet tall to just be shorter. It’s not that easy to fix. Mental illness is an illness. Illnesses need treatment. The stigma often associated with mental illness creates barriers to treatment. Too often people feel ashamed to seek help for fear they will be labeled “crazy”. That is a word that must go away. People are not crazy, but rather ill and need to get treatment to improve. Without proper treatment many people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, become deeply isolated from friends and family, or tragically even take their own lives.

Mitch GennusoComment