Stigmatization of People with Mental Disorders

"Stigmatization of people with mental disorders is manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and/or avoidance. Stigma leads the (public) to avoid people with mental disorders. It reduces access to resources and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters
the public from seeking, and wanting to pay for care. Stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society."

--U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher (ret.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm sick and tired of violence being blamed on individuals living with mental disorders

Yes, mental health is an important issue, but I am tired of seeing the blame for violence and criminal acts laid upon those tormented by some type of mental disorder. One in three Americans suffer from some type of mental illness and, for years live with pain and anguish caused by failure to be correctly diagnosed.  I strongly advocate for early and effective screening measures that will result in successful  treatment, or in some cases, incarceration if indicated. Individuals living with mental disorders most often suffer the stigma of their illness, are alienated from others, and often denied their dignity and full participation in society.
I have lived with a mental disorder which first manifested itself in my early teens. I was not correctly diagnosed until the illness exacerbated in my late forties. I somehow compensated for the pain I was living with, and had a successful career for more than two decades and contributed to my community through numerous volunteer activities. I never committed any criminal acts, and the only violence I engendered was directed at me.  Five years after my diagnosis, my doctors finally hit upon a successful medical management plan that has allowed me to once again give back something valuable.
Yes, there are psychopathic individuals who commit or are capable of unfathomable acts of horror, who will never be fit to live in the general population because of their insanity. There are also zealots whose violent acts result from hatred and bigotry, not mental illness. If we could only develop a comprehensive screening program, many of these might be stopped before they cross that threshold into violence.
Life can be a stage for abominable acts, but if you open your eyes and heart wide, you will find gracious moments of kindness, compassion, and beauty.

Education, action, and advocacy are imperative, and we all have a role to play.