As you’re reading this, think of the times you’ve heard comments about different races/cultures/traditions and assumptions about mental health. Now, think of the times you’ve considered believing those same comments and assumptions. Believe it or not, we live in a society that would rather deal with the perception of our diverse community through assumptions, than actually dealing with the individuals that are spoken about. From racial slurs to gender norms, our society has its own stance and ideas on what is allowed and what is not.
To influence the ideas and beliefs, we have the media and pop-culture playing a significant role that has an effect on those who live and breathe mass-media. For most, pop-culture is the way we learn about many cultures, people and traditions that differ from our own. But the problem is that many of these representations are based on cultural and racial stereotypes, which leads to misrepresentation. There are television shows that show an African-American child, fatherless; when they’re doing well, they’re either into sports or music and negatively, thugs and gangsters. Then we have Arabs and Muslims being portrayed as terrorists, Caucasians most likely the victims of wrongdoing and so on. On the news, we have biased anchors, whose beliefs get in the way of what is actually right and wrong, which leads to misconceptions. This here, creates a lasting impact on the future generation, because that is what they will grow up watching and believing.
We often hear, “end the stigma of mental illness,” but what is being done to do so? The continued use of the word “psycho” and “lunatic” hasn’t lessened or stopped and degrading those who lean on the support of a therapist or medication is not the way to end the stigmatizing. When people know you’re depressed or have a certain mental condition, they automatically assume you are incapable of working, living decently or being social amidst society. This occurs because society in general has stereotyped views about mental illness and how it affects people. Many people believe that people with mental ill health are violent and dangerous, when in fact they are more at risk of being attacked or harming themselves than harming other people. This perception and representation hurts those who have mental health issues and refrain them from getting help, because of being ashamed, embarrassed and outcasts in society. Instead of shaming and stigmatizing, encouraging treatment and showing acceptance is important to those who go through it alone.
Cultural and societal misrepresentation leads to cultural and societal confusion, which is why us, as individuals, should spread awareness to bring us one step closer to cultural and societal acceptance.