The mentally ill are all around us, and they can be influenced by the stigma surrounding them.
How many children today (or their parents) have problems with learning, especially with reading or mathematics? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV Text Revision a manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists to help diagnose mental illnesses have both mathematics and reading learning problems listed as disturbances that can possibly interfere with daily living. While these are not mental illnesses, these still help to show that everyone does have some kind of illness, or disorder, even if it may be a smaller one.
In the same vein, how many people have problems paying attention, or can sometimes be hyperactive? These are also included in the DSM-IV-TR, and are listed as a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development (APA, 2000).
Do you know a person who may be abusing alcohol or drugs? These also are listed in the DSM-IV-TR, and fall under many categories, from alcohol-related and amphetamine disorders to cocaine-related disorders.
Do you know a person who has been in a very sad state for a couple of weeks with loss of interest or pleasure in almost all activities? Do they experience at least four additional symptoms from this list: changes in appetite or weight; sleep problems; decreased psychomotor activity; decreased energy; feeling worthless and guilty; problems thinking and concentrating; and wanting either to die or to dwell on death, or commit suicide? If so, the DSM-IV-TR states that this person can be suffering from a major depressive episode.
Accepting Treatment Still a Challenge
Things have changed tremendously since Philippe Pinel unlocked the chains of those deemed to be insane in an asylum in Paris, France. The quality of life for those suffering from mental disorders has improved, but there are still barriers to overcome.
According to Patrick Corrigan (2004), researchers have problems with two trends in the treatment of the mentally ill:
- Many people with mental illness never pursue treatment.
- Others begin treatment but do not fully adhere to the services as prescribed by the psychiatrist or psychologist.
Is this because of the stigma associated with mental illness? Perhaps in part. If a person is taking medication for the flu, for instance, most people will not negate the fact of the drug’s effectiveness and will expect the person to take the medication’s full course.
However, if a person is prescribed medication for depression — Prozac, for instance — how many people would be brazen enough to publicize it? Not many. Antibiotics are talkable; antidepressants are not.
A person may just be eccentric, and others may consider their behavior as possibly psychotic or neurotic. However, have a person be a hypochondriac or have a medical illness and no one considers his or her behavior too extreme.
Of course stigma such as this influences all those who suffer from mental disorders. Why would a person state that he has a mental illness or issue, only to be ridiculed or have his self-esteem damaged by less caring individuals? People may say, “God bless you,” when you are physically sick, or that they hope you get better. Why do they not say things along that same line to those with mental illness?
Here is hoping the best of mental and physical health for you and all the ones you love.
American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
Corrigan, P. (2004). How Stigma Interferes with Mental Health Care. American Psychologist, Vol. 59, No. 7, 614-625.