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Running Head: Behind the Eyes

Behind the Eyes: A Look at Mental Illness Stigma Sam Carpenter Hesser College Manchester

Running Head: Behind the Eyes Behind the Eyes: A look at Mental Illness Stigma It has been said that people who suffer from mental illness often face more than just the initial diagnosis, Not only do they have to learn to cope with their new condition often with little help from family or friends as well as trying to cope with the new life changes and responsibilities such as

medications and therapy appointments, but they are also subjected to the social stigma of being wrong in the head or dangerous. You might think that in today' supposedly accepting culture we would have done away with ostracizing people and letting stereotypes and stigma affect our reasoning towards other people. After all we have come along way since the atrocities of the Laconia state school and other such schools for the mentally ill, But in fact you would be wrong according to a study done by Indiana and Columbia universities. Prejudice and discrimination in the U.S. arent moving, In fact, in some cases, it may be increasing. Its time to stand back and rethink our approach. ( Pescosolido,2010 ) People often do not think about how much something like this can destroy someones life, it goes far beyond simply having a few people look down on you. It can produce discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and social relationships, and negatively impact the quality of life for these individuals, their families and friends. (Pescosolido, 2010) To summarize the mental health stigma, that many patients face, affects every aspect of their lives, from where they live and work to the types of medical care they can receive and the types of interpersonal relationships that they are able to pursue. Stigma is defined as A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. So if we apply that to mental illness then that would mean a mark of disgrace associated with mental illness. Sadly it would seem that even though we have made such huge advances in the fields of mental health and how we care for those who suffer from mental illness a large part of the population still see's these people as a disgrace and that there is something wrong with them that makes them somehow

Running Head: Behind the Eyes less than human. We could spend the next four hundred pages going over how this affects every type of mental

illness and how we could combat these ignorant perceptions but for the sake of time and my own sanity I am going to focus on only what I consider to be the top 5 mental disorders in the context of severity of the stigma related to them. These conditions are, in order of severity, Schizophrenia, Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Tourette Syndrome and Mental Retardation. Schizophrenia is generally accepted as a psychotic disorder affecting only about one percent of the population. In order to be diagnosed with schizophrenia you must have persistent hallucinations and delusions. Often these symptoms manifest in the form of hearing voices and seeing people that are not based in the real world but only exist within the mind of the patient. People with this condition are generally considered crazy because they see and hear things that do not truly exist. Due to the nature of the psychosis involved with this condition it is difficult to keep patients on their medications because the delusions tell them that the pills are poison or that they are not necessary. Often patients go off of their medications without telling their doctor and thus relapse back into the psychosis that the medications control. Due to the volatile nature of this condition and the issue of staying on ones medications it is difficult for patients to hold down careers and thus many patients end up in less than favorable living situations. It is also difficult for these patients to have long lasting relationships, many people simply can not handle that much pressure and eventually leave. More often than not it is left to the immediate family of the patient to take care of them and sadly more often than not it is to much for them to handle. The impact of stigmatization on schizophrenia sufferers has added a new dimension to the illness experience and has led to social isolation, limited life chances and delayed help-seeking behavior. (Harrison, 2010) People often look at those with schizophrenia and see only the condition and not the person behind the condition. Because the illness may cause unusual, inappropriate and sometimes unpredictable

Running Head: Behind the Eyes and disorganized behavior, people who are not effectively treated are often shunned and the targets of social prejudice. ("Nami|schizophrenia," 2011) This is the knee jerk reaction of many people who don't do the research about schizophrenia before they make a judgment call. Bipolar disorder, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and functioning. These changes may be subtle or dramatic and typically vary greatly over the course of a persons life as well as among individuals. Bipolar disorder is a chronic and generally lifelong condition with recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from days to months. (Duckworth, 2006) Many People who suffer from Bipolar Disorder do not see that there is a difference between the manic or hypo manic states and the Depressive states. As such it can be difficult to accept that one has this condition, this is another condition in which medication is needed but the patient may not take that medication all the time due to not seeing the need for it. Medication is a very necessary part of controlling this condition for now. Unfortunately this condition has become trendy with many people claiming to have it just so

that they can feel special, that being said it is a legitimate condition that over ...ten million people in the US suffer from. (Duckworth, 2006) Many people who do not know what bipolar disorder is or what it does can not even begin to imagine how difficult it can be to live with. Sadly many refuse to accept that this a real condition even when the evidence is directly in front of them, many see it as controllable without medication, even though the high majority of people who suffer from this can not go without medication for now. Tourette syndrome (TS) is a neuropsychiatric disorder that is characterized by the presence of a range of both motor and vocal tics. Individuals with the condition frequently have a wide array of difculties, such as problems with attention, hyperactivity, depression, obsessivecompulsive symptoms as well as speech problems and learning disability. (Khalifa, 2010)

Running Head: Behind the Eyes Tourette syndrome is quite possibly the most stereotyped mental illness, most people assume that everyone with this condition randomly blurts out offensive words and flails their arms and legs and a plethora of other outlandish tics, when in reality only a very few cases are actually severe enough to

manifest in such grandiose ways. Even television shows like Comedy Central's South Park have Drawn upon the stereotype that people with this condition are all at the extreme end of the spectrum.(Parker, 2007) Depression is quite possibly the most widely diagnosed mental illness today. When we refer to someone being diagnosed with depression we are not talking about someone who gets depressed from time to time but rather someone who is constantly depressed and often feels no joy or hope at all. Depression has certainly become a trendy condition, many teens claim to have this condition because more often than not those who have not been diagnosed with depression are the minority. That being said those people who truly suffer from depression often are the subjects of ridicule and verbal abuse for not being able to handle life sadly many people who suffer from depression attempt suicide at least once due to feelings of being overwhelmed and under appreciated. Many people who truly suffer from depression do not get the kind of help that they actually need because many do not see themselves as worth getting the help and so they never stand up and ask for the help. I believe that the single most Stigmatized condition in all of the mental disorders is mental retardation. Mental retardation is a disorder that is characterized by below-average intellectual functioning. It is usually diagnosed before age eighteen. Today, the term mental retardation is often replaced with other terms such as mentally challenged, and intellectual disability. ("Mental illness," 2011) Mental Retardation comes in many forms, most often the stigma related to mental retardation comes into play in the school yard with children. As much as I would like to say that the school yard is the only place we see this, It is not, many mentally challenged people have a very hard time finding work

Running Head: Behind the Eyes because people assume that they are useless and can learn nothing. More often then not people with this condition end up working for very low wages at exceedingly menial jobs, and yet unlike most of us who hate our jobs these people often do their jobs with a smile on their face because they are just happy to have a job. So how can we stop the stigma, to be quite honest the easiest way to stop a lot of the stigma that goes with having a mental illness is the dissemination of knowledge. The more people find out about mental illness the more prepared they are to handle it. The more prepared they are the less scared they are. There are many wonderful books and websites and magazines and all manner of media out there to help people understand the ins and outs of mental illness and I think that more needs to be done to get that material into the hands of the ignorant. Another way for fighting the stigma is to actually stand up and fight it, verbally of coarse. If you see someone making fun of or laughing at or calling someone names because they have a mental illness or actually for any reason stand up and tell the bully that those kinds of things are not cool and then go and tell a supervisor. This may sound like something that would be intended for a child to hear but frankly its something that we all must do. Adults can be just as mean as children if not more and in a lot

of ways adults are just older grade school kids. Just remember if you do not stand up for what you believe in , in this case the end of mental illness stigma, then your no better than those who are pushing the stigma. Mental illness runs deep in my family and so this is a topic that I grew up living. My mother suffered from Schizophrenia, Bipolar disorder, Multiple personality disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Paranoia, Post traumatic stress disorder, as well as several other mental illnesses that I was not privy to. I myself have been diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Post traumatic stress disorder, and it is suspected that I also suffer from major depressive disorder although I have not been diagnosed as of yet.

Running Head: Behind the Eyes

Mental illness stigma is something that I have fought against all my life at first for the sake of my mother and then also for myself. There have been times where it has been an uphill battle and all seemed hopeless, but thanks to a loving family and girlfriend and understanding friends I have been able to fight the good fight so to speak and I will continue to fight until either the battle is won or this soldier is no more.

Pescosolido, B. (2010). Study:mental illness stigma entrenched in american culture; new strategies needed. Retrieved from http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/15444.html HARRISON, J. J., & GILL, A. A. (2010). The experience and consequences of people with mental health

Running Head: Behind the Eyes problems, the impact of stigma upon people with schizophrenia: a way forward. Journal Of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing, 17(3), 242-250. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2850.2009.01506.x

Nami|schizophrenia. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=schizophrenia9 Duckworth, K. (2006, October). Nami: Mental illness . Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm? Section=By_Illness&Template=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay.cfm&TPLID=54&ContentID=23037 Khalifa, N., Dalan, M., & Rydell, A. (2010). Tourette syndrome in the general child population: Cognitive functioning and self- perception. Nordic Journal Of Psychiatry,64(1), 11-18. doi:10.3109/08039480903248096 Parker, T. (Writer) (2007). Le petit tourette [Television series episode]. In Garefino, A. (Executive Producer), South Park. New York: Comedy Central. Mental illness. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.stigma.org/