In the past article, I discussed how there are those people around who have at least some degree of mental illness and very few people are aware of that person or any person even being ill. Also discussed was how a person being mentally ill and being stigmatized (something about a person that others may feel negatively or ill towards) against is very common in today’s society. With this second article, I would like to discuss how the mentally ill—even those who are only really having slight mental disorders—are all around everyone’s life, and how they can be influenced by the stigmatisms of others.
How many children today (or their parents) have problems with learning, especially such things as reading or mathematics? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV – Text Revision (a manual used by psychologists and psychiatrists to help diagnose mental illnesses, which is herein referred to in this article by DSM-IV-TR) 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 problem 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 and 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 using or abusing alcohol or drugs? These are also listed in the DSM-IV-TR, and fall under many categories, from alcohol related and amphetamine disorders to cocaine-related disorders.
Serious mental illnesses are listed, such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder, with their diagnoses and possible interactions with other illnesses, in the DSM-IV-TR. Many illnesses are listed within the DSM-IV-TR and they help provide a better synopsis of recovering from an illness and of possible co morbidities (combinations with other) illnesses.
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, psychomotor activity, decreased energy, feeling worthless and guilty, problems thinking, concentrating, and wanting to either die or dwell on death, or commit suicide? If so, the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV-TR states that this person can be suffering from a Major Depressive Episode.
Note that just because a person might have some problems considered a little offset from the socialized structure of normalcy, that does not mean in part or in its entirety that they are either mentally ill or not normal, as defined by society. That is indeed one of the major issues that I hope to get discussed with these three articles that people who are suffering from mental issues are around other people more than the others realize. Some may be suffering from extreme mental illnesses, but may be treated with medications or therapies. Others may not be in such a bad shape mentally and might be able to survive without much help from the medical and psychological establishments and procedures. There is almost always hope for those who have mental illness and their families. This does not always have to be a death sentence upon the sufferer and their relation.
Even though things have changed tremendously since Philippe Pinel unlocked the chains of those deemed to be insane in an asylum in Paris, France, and the quality of life for those who are suffering from mental disorders have improved, there are still many things in the social structure that can not be entirely justified towards mental illnesses.
According to Patrick Corrigan (2004), researchers have problems with two trends in the treatment of the mentally ill: 1) many people with mental illness never pursue treatment, and 2) 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? Probably in part, at least, some of it is. If a person is taking medication for the flu, for instance, most people will not negate the fact of the drug’s affectiveness and expect the person to take the medications full regimented 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 and I am sure we all know the reasons why. Antibiotics are talkable, anti-depressants are not.
A person can 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 their 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 their 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?
In the final article, I would like to discuss how we in general could help eliminate the stigma of 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.