Fight Stigma By Teaching Understanding
There are legions of people in this world who have been touched by stigma some time in their lives. Stigma all to often kills. It kills the spirit of the person who is coping with it. It is a negative label to identify someone with. People with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) suffer from a measurable amount of stigma throughout there life. It is believed if you have a mental illness you are violent, a killer, or even a sex offender. This is not always true.
It doesn't necessarily mean because you have a mental illness you are any of these things. People with a mental illness, or diagnosed disorders do not commit crimes that are horrendous any more than those with no mental illness. So the myth is not true that all mentally ill people are criminals.The media is partially responsible for many of the idea's that persist about people with mental illnesses. When the news broadcasts that a person charged with murder is found mentally ill, it immediately casts a stereotype that embraces millions of people and inflicts a heavy stigma. TV characters with a mental illness are often portrayed as hostile, dangerous and unpredictable, 70 % of these television characters with a mental illness are portrayed as violent.
This very stigma discourages families that have bipolar, schizophrenia or OCD from getting the help they so desperately need. They fear being persecuted, discriminated,and stereotyped against, so they continue to hide in shame. Stigma is about disrespect. Comedians often make fun of people with mental illnesses, using it as a joke.
Approximately 23 percent of the US population suffer from a mental illness and half of those unfortunately never get the help they so desperately need because of the stigma they feel. Today, most people who are affected by mental illness can lead productive lives within their communities thanks to a variety of support, programs, family and/or medications.
Things You Can Do To Battle Stigma
- We need to start using a more respectful language, stop using terms like fruitcake, nut case, freak, crazy and lunatic. Mental Illness can strike anyone at any given time.I know it is hard to not use many of these words,but using them in a less insulting way is an improvement.
- We need to build awareness and compassion for those that suffer from mental illness and not label them crazy. Many people have wrong and damaging ideas about mental illness. Let people know these labels are hurtful and damaging.
- Getting precise facts and information may help change ideas and actions. Educate the family and friends about mental illness, and how stigma misleads many people into fear that is not rational and not accurate.
- Break down the barriers of ignorance, prejudice, or unfair discrimination by promoting education, understanding, and respect. Stick up for someone you know struggles with stigma. Show them you understand.
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Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on March 19, 2014:
Dear Fed Up, Thank you for sharing your story. many people go through the very same thing you have. It is unbelievable someone can just have you committed because you say you feel suicidal. They do those holds in the name of protecting us, which perhaps they do save many. But I do know the mental health facilities could use some reform. I have experienced both and good and bad. I to was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital a few years ago. It was seriously the right thing at the time because I was not able to do it myself. I would have more than likely succeeded in harming myself to the extent of death. I had just moved back to my small town, so I know the whispers and rejection. The "oh she's on disability because she nuts" mentality. Going into the store and having people stare or whisper while snickering. Getting a job was hilarious, no one would hire somebody who was in a mental hospital. The sad thing is so many people understand but so many don't. I am sorry you went through such a traumatic experience. I hope with time you can move past it and let that stigma fade away. I am learning that what they think is not important, how I act in public is another. If I am sad or manic I sadly hide it best can from most everyone. It is hard to do when your manic or when you are depressed enough not to care what you look like. People notice. I go to therapy and see a psych doctor for medication. The only people who know this are immediate family and that's about it. It wasn't so much like that when I lived in the city. But I am here for now and have to deal with the repercussions unfortunately. You can fight stigma in small ways by not letting people define who you are. I am bipolar and my way of battling stigma is to educate people who say stupid things. Having to deal with teachers and other parents can be challenging. I hope you can find a way to be less isolated and not feel bad about yourself because you have depression. It doesn't make you any less a person than they are. They choose to judge, they do not know. Please be gentle with yourself, and keep fighting, you are important. Again I am glad you wrote, I hope it helped you in some small way.
Fed Up With Ignorance on March 08, 2014:
I made the mistake of telling someone that I felt suicidal and was placed on a 5150 psychiatric hold for 72 hours. I was taken against my will to a mental hospital, and for 12 hours my family didn't know where to find me. During the three days in the hospital I was doped up with sleeping pills and antidepressants. I only saw daylight for 20 minutes a day. The residents who had been there long term, were yellow and jaundiced from not getting enough sun.
When I got released, I realized that all of the teachers and staff members at my daughter's school were informed about this. Some of the parents knew too. Some people were nice, while others wouldn't even make eye contact with me.
Being thrown in a mental hospital didn't save my life. The stigma of being locked up in one of those places never goes away, and it's killing me little by little. I am not suicidal as I am on medication, but I will probably never be able to get a decent job as long as I'm living in this area.
Even if I didn't disclose this information to a future employer, with all the gossip flying around about me being "crazy" and suicidal, I feel that my days would be numbered at any jobs. Statistically, 80 percent of people like me are unemployed. I think it has to do with the fear of being exposed, combined with the stress of battling mental illness day in and day out.
As far as the mandatory 5150 hold, I get that I put myself in that situation by revealing that I was suicidal. However, I feel that these holds should only be implemented in cases of public drunkeness or if someone is being violent towards others, which I wasn't.
Being shunned by the parents, teachers and school principal is one of the hardest things that I have had to deal with. I just want to run away and cry half the time. These people have the mindset that they are somehow better than me, and I fear that one day, someone is going to file a false report against me just to have me committed again. It's really scary, those 5150 holds. You are at their mercy, they can keep you there for as long as they want, even if you are not crazy. It's all about perception - if you look sad, they might automatically think you are still suicidal and hold you there.
When I pick up my child from school, I have to pretend that I'm happy. One frown or one shed tear and one of these teachers might call the cops on me to say that I am unstable.
Don't get me wrong, some of the teachers appear to be empathetic. Some of them might even be on meds themselves considering the stressful nature of their jobs. Ever see a teacher the week of parent teacher meetings. Half of them are totally stressed because they have to face parents who could potentially become angry over low grades or test scores. I really feel for teachers in that way.
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on May 21, 2012:
Thank you so much for your insight and kind comment...Mental illness is often invisable, so many suffer alone....
megni on May 12, 2012:
Great article. You're wrong though when you say those who don't have a mental illness commit horrendous crimes. They are mentally ill, or at least they're absent of being mentally healthy.
Mentally healthy people do not commit crimes and plot destruction against others. Keep writing and pushing the idea that mental illness needs as much concern as any other bodily illness. The two relate to each other.
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on August 15, 2011:
Thank you for you insightful words, they meam a lot. We have to keep fighting stigma so we can feel like we belong as much as the next sane person. Thank you for your great comments.
Kim Harris on August 15, 2011:
Great hub, crazybeanrider. Stigma as a form of rejection does literally kill. Rejection weakens our immune system and stigma leads people to withdraw and isolate when they really need to interact more in order to get better. I love the "let it be a brighter day" pic. Thanks.
Muldanianman on June 01, 2011:
I cannot understand the distinction between mental and physical illness. Mental illness is caused by the brain, and the brain is a physical organ of the body, so therefore mental illness is physical illness. Why people see differences between the two makes little sense to me. I also think that there is only a stigma, if people allow there to be. I have had a lifetime of one mental illness or another, and I have never even considered hiding this fact. I am not ashamed of it at all. In fact, I consider my various conditions as the only interesting things about me. It is those who discriminate against those with mental health problems who have the real problems, because they are ignorant and can have no understanding of an issue which goes above their heads.
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on May 02, 2011:
Thank you for reading and commenting htodd.
htodd from United States on May 01, 2011:
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on February 22, 2011:
Thank you Moment in Time for reading :)
Moment in Time on February 20, 2011:
Excellent Hub! There is a real stigma about Mental Health issues.
crazybeanrider on April 12, 2009:
Thank you dr c for your comments. I have been on a vacation of sorts from writing. Yes it is a bipolar thing. I so appreciate it when folks like yourself recognize the things we are trying to make better through awareness and knowledge. That there doesn't have to be that negative dot of darkness on mental illness if we can spread the experiences of how we maintain in the world. Thank you :-)
dr c from San Francisco Bay Area on April 09, 2009:
you write on a topic close to my heart, I feel really strongly about how people with mental illness are treated differently - from HMO's to workplaces & schools and how their concerns are often downplayed or frankly ignored. It is very courageous to write about such personal topics, hope to hear more from you.
madellen from British Columbia, Canada on August 17, 2008:
I'd like your opinion, it's a Canadian piece though, just added info about research into stigma and some other university studies going on here. I hope to link my mental health articles to a local program site. Stay tuned! ( :
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on August 11, 2008:
Thank you for your comment. I also think that many are given a diagnosis more freely than not. It is easier to throw a prescription and hope for the best than perhaps seeking out therapy and possibly a short term med regimen.
Mental health should be a social problem. But unfortunately it isn't. It is a society that frowns upon those that have a mental illness. The "crazy" card has been played so many times, that when someone with a real illness shows up in the courts, so what? The question they ask is "why should we get off just because were crazy" I have heard it to many times.
Society needs to be educated. They need to be willing to learn that mental illness is not something one chooses when times are tough. But something that strikes at any given time. That you just don't turn "crazy". They need to know that those words sting, and are hurtful. But in my experience I don't see much improvement of that happening. I do what I can to empower myself, to teach my community that people with mental illness's are not monsters waiting in the wings to hurt you or your children.
Thanks for the recommended sites, I'll check them out.
madellen from British Columbia, Canada on August 11, 2008:
I believe that only 1% of violent crimes are related to any diagnosable mental health condition. The media always puts a mental health spin on crime, at the expense of informed journalism. Often they don't even properly source their information (....so and so has mental illness says an anonymous neigbour.....). Another problem is that diagnoses are too broad and I think made to often, just in order to help people who are going through a bad time. My position is that good mental health is not just an individual problem, its a social responsibility. There are some interesting web sites and resource links for more info. Try googling -The Force BC- (an advocacy group site with great links) and google -Just Therapy- (an Australian site). Anyway, good hubsite.
Amitava Sengupta on June 05, 2008:
Boo McCourt (author) from Washington MI on May 23, 2008:
Well as my user name says, crazy. I think using humor and having a sense of humor to battle a mental illness is something everyone should absolutely have. Unfortunately not everyone has that. I try but my humor meter probably isn't that high. I think it is great that you can deal with your EAD and bipolar without meds. I bet it gets tough sometimes for you. I know what you mean about meds. I commend you not taking them. And taking a stand against them and living your life as best you can without a cloud hanging over your head.
Agro Donkey from Ohio on May 22, 2008:
I am crazy, nuts, and even bonkers. I am mentaly ill. I have been diagnosed with many different things. I suffer from EAD (Explosive Anger Disorder) and I am bipolar. The best way that I have found to get people to know that I'm not any different than anyone else is to make a joke out of it. I tell them that my EAD makes me turn everything I am feeling into rage and that bipolar makes my moods go haywire. I deal with the it the best that I can without medication because it makes me feel like zombie. Like I am not living life but just going through the motions. I get some laughs and they get that I am who I am. I can't help the way that I deel with stuff so they need to except it. Humor is the best educater. You just need to quit taking yourself so seriously. I was told that you can't take life to seriously or that you'll never make it our alive. I can't say so much as that it is true but it makes a lot more sense than being offended all the time.