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Mental Health

The Social Stigma: Mental Illness

Written by Katie Christensen 

Mental disorders are a complicated issue, easily misunderstood or misinterpreted. It has a wide range, from schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression, to anxiety or OCD. Mental disorders are actually fairly common- 25% of people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives. To really understand the issue, we need to unveil the sense of mystery towards each mental disorder. Without getting too intricate, we’ll explain the main ones, most frequently seen, as written above.



First, there’s schizophrenia, a disorder that affects over 1% of the world.Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts. Now, this seems scary. It can be extremely scary for a person diagnosed. A large amount of the public perceive this to be a split/multiple personality disorder, which is not the case. A lot of people also seem to think that a schizophrenic person has violent tendencies- on the contrary, more often than not, a schizophrenic is not violent. This disorderhas no correlation with past events. In fact, the cause remains to this day a mystery, however the disorder tends to run in families. Schizophrenia is an inbalance of the brain’s chemicals, which leads to delusions and/or hallucinations.


Bipolar is a disorder which causes severe high and low moods. This disorder comes with many complications, such as changing sleep patterns, energy levels, thinking process, and behavior. Basically, the disorder is called “bipolar” because of the two contrasting moods one feels- ecstatic, energized (hence the word “manic”), to depressed, even suicidal. These shifts in moods can cause irritability and impusive thoughts and/or actions. During their manic period, over half of people with bipolar can suffer from delusions. These contrasting high and low moods do not follow a set pattern, but can be very unpredictable.


Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. This disorder also goes by major depressive disorder or clinical depression. Thinking, feeling, and behaving are all affected. While many people believe that depression can only cause mental anguish, it actually causes physical ailments as well. These ailments can range a want to stay in bed for a long time, feeling physically tired, to physical pain, such as aches or even cramps, as well as vomiting. Depression can be a long-term disorder, or it can be in a stage in your life, such as the teenage years, where your brain’s chemicals and hormones are going haywire. There are many solutions to depression, such as medication and counseling.


Anxiety is a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks. While a few bouts of axiety throughout your life are normal, something to be expected, people with anxiety disorders are frequently enduring intense worry or fear about situations we go through daily, sometimes leading to panic attacks. What are panic attacks? They are sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear that reach a peak within minutes. There are many kinds of anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, specific phobias, and separation anxiety. There are a few solutions for anxiety disorders, like conseling.


Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).People with OCD may only have obsessions or only compulsions. Obsessive Compusive people may not know that their obsessions are unreasonable, and may ignore or try to stop them. These obsessions and/or compulsions take a lot of time away from the person suffering, and take away from activities.

What is a social stimga? Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society. Stigma may then be affixed to such a person, by the greater society, who differs from their cultural norms. The social stigma on mental illness is hard to overcome; it can make people with mental disorders’ lives harder, and make recovery a lot harder. There are many stereotypes on metally ill people- that they are violent, dangerous, or criminals for example. In reality, people are more dangerous to themselves than another person is.


The stereotype on schizophrenics is that they are violent delusional beings, seeing faces that don’t exist and extreme haullicantions 24/7. The stereotype on bipolar is that a person is nuts or crazy. The stereotype on depressed people is that they’re just lazy. The stereotype on anxious people is that they “just don’t want to do anything.” The stereotype on OCD people is that they are neatfreaks or just germophobes.


Hopefully, you already know that you are not just a stereotype. You are much more. You are a strong, independent person, who just might need a little help along the way. Mental disorders are nothing to be ashame of!


These stereotypes won’t just vanish overnight. It will take lots of time before they start to fade more. However the Equality Act 2010 gives people more hope- the act makes it illegal to discriminate directly or indirectly against people with mental health problems in public services and functions, access to premesis, work, education, associations and trasport. This is the first step in the right direction. Hopefully people will begin to see that not everythinog can be watered down to a stereotype, that there are much more intricate pieces to each disorder and each personal problem.


Another issue that needs to be addressed is the idea in today’s teenage world that having a mental disorder is “cool,” or that romanticizing harming yourself is “in.” These are serious issues in today’s society. Why do kids feel the need to say, “I have depression/bipolar/schizophrenia” when they don’t? Does it make them feel like they look “tough” or “brave”? Does anyone really know? It’s like saying “I have diabetes” when, in fact, you really don’t. It’s faking an illness. It’s causing people to a.) lose respect for you and b.) degrade others who have mental illnesses.


Next, how does one interpret the romanticization of self-inflicted injuries (cutting, bruising, burning, etc.)? People are calling self-harm scars “beautiful”, and maybe it’s symbolic of the struggles a preson has gone through, and that they’re still here, but that doesn’t make anything beautiful- it makes a person brave, for facing their worst nightmares every morning when they wake up. Many people will post photos of fresh self-inflicted injuries, or the “tools” they’ve used, or will create Instagram/Twitter acounts dedicated to their depression or other mental disorder.


This brings us to another issue with self-harm, which is the chanting of “they’re doing it for attention.” While there are a few people out there who do it for the attention, the majority do it as a release. In fact, some people who do it for attention, do it not because they want some fifteen-year-old pointing at their sleeve, but because they subconsciously want someone to notice and get them help, because they may be too scared to do it on their own.


Keep your mind open when it comes to mental disorders and their stereotypes, because not everything is as it seems to be.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 (800) 273-8255

National Mental Health Association Hotline – 800-273-TALK (8255)

Depression and Bipolar Support – 800-273-TALK (8255)

National Eating Disorders Association – 800-931-2237

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