Mental Illness Stereotypes

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by Ben Huot

You are now in the 4th Generation Subsection of the Writing Section

February 4, 2022

Many people today who were marginalized in the past are now being accepted as normal. One group that seems to still be the other and a group that is still targeted for discrimination is the mentally ill. It is still considered socially acceptable to blame social problems on the mentally ill.

Obviously people of different races and genders are very easy to accept into normal society because little to no accommodations need to be made and those that do are generally physical. The same is true of people with easily understood physical or mental disabilities.

For many people depression can be managed by medicine and counseling. For people without sight, hearing, or with mobility disabilities there is much in the way of technology that can make things much easier at least than it was 20 years ago. There is also less social social stigma with these categories of disabilities.

When it comes to mental illness and Schizophrenia in particular many people are still quite afraid of those with mental illness. Ironically most people who know someone with Schizophrenia realize that people with Schizophrenia, although going through difficult things, are the same as everyone else in other areas. Most people with Schizophrenia have average intelligence and abilities. Their biggest problems are often money and relationships like most people.

But beyond that the most disabling part of Schizophrenia is not the way you are perceived but the way you perceive reality. Schizophrenia is defined as a split between reality and fantasy and most people with Schizophrenia have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Some have trouble with auditory hallucinations, others with delusions about people plotting against them, and others have trouble with other types of delusions about reality in general.

Many people especially within the mental health community see religion as a trigger or source of confirmation of the reality of their psychosis. They often discourage religion and religious communities and participating in them. The reality is more complex.

Although not a primary treatment of Schizophrenia, religion can be useful in helping people with Schizophrenia to live more healthy lives. Religion provides community, belonging, and socialization. It helps people get out and exercise, helps focus their minds on positive things, gives them hope and peace, promotes self esteem, and helps provide a more balanced perspective to help counter delusional thoughts.

True religion should be based on the deity not the people and Christianity works because it is not primarily about what someone thought of and has a long view of history. Most religions dominated by an individual are not as cross culturally relevant and do not have the longevity of major world religions. Christianity has clear moral standards and a realistic and complex perspective on how people think and act.

Study of the Bible and the practice of Christianity helps build a sound mind and a healthy lifestyle as it encourages moderation and self control. Christianity is accessible to everyone and many people have spent a great deal of effort making sure the Bible and the church include everyone that want to be part of it.

Mental illness has some strong similarities to addictive behaviors in terms of symptoms and treatments. Many people with Schizophrenia have or had addictions. Some of the longest lasting and successful treatments for addiction are based on Christian ideas.

Many powerful people have seen the mentally ill, especially people with Schizophrenia, as useful targets to make people feel better about themselves. Both parties often try to associate mental illness with evil and so it gets blamed for criminal behavior. In reality though morally bad things are not done any more frequently by those who have a poorer grasp on reality.

People do bad things because they choose to, not because they don’t know better. They are doing what they think will improve things for themselves but don’t think or care about the effect it has on others. Having trouble controlling your thoughts does not lead to bad behavior anymore than having diabetes or consuming alcohol does.

A person with Schizophrenia may do irrational things although so do many who have no good reason to do so. Just like people can have their sight, hearing, or mobility compromised by many factors, permanently or temporarily, some in and some out of their control.

People with Schizophrenia are disabled and need help like someone with physical or relatively minor mental issues. This is where you see that helping with mental illness can become costly and difficult. And this is why there is so little support for it.

People with mental illness are often living in poverty and so have all the problems associated with this like needing low income housing, financial aid from the government, and government paid heath care. Just like upgrading your sewer system these things are not fun or exciting and so get little interest amongst the voting public or the powers that be.

Maybe we could transform our society into something that could provide meaningful work for those with severe mental illnesses. But in order to do so we might need to undo most of what we consider to be the defining characteristics of a society. Some people with mental illnesses could survival effectively without much help, as well as anyone else today, if society totally unwinds itself though.

But the biggest factor that triggers symptoms for almost any mental or physical illness is stress. Lowering people’s stress in ways we control be treating each other with kindness, patience, and empathy would go a long way. Many of the problems in our society now arise from people unwilling to see things from someone else’s point of view.

We assume too much about people today but people are diverse, not just in physical ways but in their views of reality and what is important in life. Some of these problems highlight deeper problems in our society that are not easy to solve. Making things better for the mentally ill would likely improve things for others who are not considered fully normal by large segments of society.

Some of these issues might bring us back to what causes evil and how we could reduce it. But certainly blaming evil or equating it with mental illness is factually incorrect, not useful in solving the problem, and is a form of discrimination. This may not sit well with much of the population but so did racial integration of public schools.