Headline! Headline! A mentally ill man pushes
Read all about it and kills elderly woman
By using train tracks
We interrupt a dishevelled lady who was
This broadcast… Hearing voices has been
Found and arrested
Does this look and or and sound familiar? Did it grab our attention? It is in bold print in our local newspaper or perhaps it is the news personality that breaks into our favourite programming. Of course, it does, at least to most of us at some point in our life; utterly deplorable and a very sad day when this occurs. Wow, media strikes!
Mass media often reports on people with mental illness. Whether it be on radio or television or even in newspapers or magazine, my feeling is that the folks suffering are not even close to being portrayed in an accurate manner. More often than not, the media depicts people with mental illness in an extremely negative way, which often causes others to perceive each person dealing with this differently. In addition, inaccuracies stated by media causes judgemental and stereotypical thinking that many times leads to stigma and discrimination.
Worse of all, media shows people with mental illness as incompetent, dangerous and undeserving which serves to distance everyone from each other. What a life! Realistically, what is needed is a more on the mark capturing of what someone dealing with these issues are like. This way and only in this way, one can discern between what is true or false, stereotype or reality and characterisation versus real-life storytelling. Studies do inform us that people suffering from a form of mental illness are less likely to commit a violent crime; however, they are more likely to be victimised themselves.
People continue to stigmatise and discriminate others with mental health problems that look different from everyone else. Boy, is this false? Maybe it is their dirty hair or is it torn and tattered clothing being worn. Perhaps it is the wild eyes or the way one is meandering down the street. So, now we are lumping categories altogether. Think about these possibilities. Ultimately, is it because there are signs of mental health diﬃculties present? Once again, stigma and discrimination rear their ugly heads.
Do people really appear that different? Of course not. These attributes tell us when casting for characters who look evil, threatening or at least are unkempt, interviewers need to check prospective candidates thoroughly before hiring. Out there are the homeless who lack funds or possessions to maintain the ability for an adequate appearance. These folks who have a right to perform and can and do possess any assortment of mental health issues. Also, there are huge numbers who get up every day, shower, go to work and lead productive lives. Both STIGMA and DISCRIMINATION causes media to portray others dealing with any mental illness in a dismissive way. Applause, applause. Really it does seem like everyone looks and acts similarly, not like what the media often shows.
Mass media gloriﬁes mental health concerns. While many people are beginning to try talking about these issues and gains, recovery isn’t often displayed. Characters portrayed in media formats are rarely shown with any progress or recover from any of their maladies. If indeed humans do eventually improve and get better, it will only last for a short duration and is only a temporary situation. Ultimately, this creates a belief that there is little or no hope for someone who develops any type of mental health problem. OK, I know, this is another way for media to justify that the words, stigma and discrimination do exist.
In reality, people do recover. With an adequate combination of medications, therapy, social interactions with family and friends plus using the right mindset, many of these individuals can and do recover. Maybe in the future, everyone can coexist and live in both peace and harmony. Added to this, stigma and discrimination will be removed from our collective vocabularies. Yes, earlier I said recovery is not only possible, it is probable. What do all the readers out there think? Let me know with some comments. Next time, when there is a next time, the third instalment of these articles will be about how self-stigma affects us and how we can develop other mental health issues.
Image credit: Freepik
Howard Diamond is a certified peer specialist in New York.
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