The Importance Of Educating People About Mental Illness

In this time and day mental illness seems to be quite a subject every time the television is turned on. There are pharmaceutical companies advertising medications, commercials promoting awareness and/ or encouraging people to seek help and unfortunately even mass shooting are being associated with this subject. It seems that the world is divided with supporters and the not so sympathetic. For anybody who is uneducated regarding the topic of mental illness it might be easy to ask why somebody with a mental illness doesn’t seek help or talk about his or her situation. In order to diminish the number of times people jump into the conclusion that all the ills of society are perpetrated by mentally ill people, more emphasis needs to be placed on educating people about mental illness rather than shaming people who are actually suffering.

Not all who have caused harm to others are suffering from a mental illness, and unfortunately that’s often times how the media presents their stories and completely misinforms the public. There has been many cases where perhaps shooters showed signs of depression, paranoia or anxiety before an attack but these symptoms don’t always mean that person was dealing with a mental illness and it’s those facts that become very misleading. In the world there is just plain evil people who don’t care about others and don’t hesitate before creating harm towards others. Recent examples of this would be the Orlando night club shooting that happened June 12, 2016 by Omar Mateen.

Mateen pledged allegiance to ISIS and fired his weapon inside an Orlando nightclub killing about 50 people and wounding many more. A second example would be the Sutherland Springs church shooting. In which the gun man whose name was Devin Patrick Kelley who entered a church during Sunday mass on November 5th, 2017 and fired his weapon killing 26 and injured 20 others. Sangu Delle, a man from Nigeria admits to suffering from anxiety and depression for years during a TED Talk. There were many emotions that he had to phase on a daily basis from anxiety attacks to laying in bed feeling worthless and just wanting to cry. He states that even though he had a loving family and supporting friends he couldn’t entertain the idea of talking with them about his problems. His first encounter with his anxiety and depression happened when he lost seven family members in the same month being a body school student at the Peddie School in New Jersey. A nurse working there approached him after hearing what happened and offered to help him seek help. He asked himself, “Is she mental..? Does she not know that an African man neither processes nor express our emotions, we deal with out problems”. He even admits that later that night he called his brother and laughed at this.

Like Sangu there are many people who suffer with some kind of mental illness and are too afraid to seek help. They hide behind the stigma of the subject. According to Sangu, 70% of mental illness cases are found in poor countries, like Nigeria. Aside from hiding behind the stigma or feeling embarrassed, there is also a shortage in psychiatrists which makes it even harder for people to seek help. Uneducated people may react with ignorance, fear or anger against this topic. Some even blaming witch craft or drugs as the culprit behind the condition. In his talk he also shares a personal story of his friend who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and how people who claimed to be their friends turned his back on him and even made demeaning comments about his condition. Inspired by his best friend he founded the mental health special interest alumni group in his college where he helped and supported many undergraduates cope with their mental illness. Even after his accomplishments with helping others undergo their problems Delle still continued to struggle in silence, unable to speak to anyone when facing his anxiety. “I was afraid of being the mad man” he admits. Eventually he had to let go of his pride and speak up. He finally understood that he wasn’t alone and speaks about his situation with confidence to hopefully motivate others to do the same. There is a lot of controversy between whether a person suffering with a mental illness should be allowed to have a choice between seeking help or being sent from evaluation against their will. It is always after a tragedy that the question, “what could have been done to prevent or avoid the tragedy?”

In the article “Involuntary Commitment of People with Mental Illnesses: Should states revise laws to make it easier to commit people with mental illnesses involuntarily?” it compares voluntary commitment vs involuntary commitment of people with a mental illness. On one side there are the people who believe that committing people involuntarily prevents them for entering a crisis and therefore allows for mental health professionals to take a more preventative approach with treatment. It would also help the people with the mental illness to stabilize their lives and learn to avoid becoming violent. It also gives the viewpoint of the people who support the current law which is that of involuntary commitment. Involuntary commitment, also known as civil commitment vs voluntary commitment according to the article is a court-ordered inpatient treatment at a hospital for people with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia. This order is usually only given if there is proof that an individual poses a danger either to themselves or others. Committing someone against their will is now considered inhumane, “In 1955, public mental hospitals housed more than 500,000 patients”. Then there are the many supporters who believe that mental illness is not an excuse to deprive citizens of their rights. They believe that people with a mental issue deserve the same rights as anybody else, and it should not be forced or pressured to seek treatment. The decision ultimately should be up to them. They say that forcing them to commit reinforces stigma and shame. The Infobase article provides the chart below showing how many patients seek inpatient or outpatient care.

Another issue dividing out country is gun control. Should gun laws change and should people suffering with a mental issue be given the right to buy or bear an arm? In the article “Untangling Gun Violence from Mental Illness” written by Julie Beck, this subject is explained and compared to length. This article proves how media and people in general always associate mental illness to homicides and/ or shootings. Julie Beck states that anytime there is a shooting of some sort, the media will try to emphasize or insinuate that the person either had a previous history of mental illness or was currently suffering with a mental illness. In this article she educates about the two subjects and makes it clear that mental illness is not a very big part of the problem of gun violence in the United States. People with mental illnesses usually don’t show symptoms of being violent other than those who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression which “equals to 4% of the cases in the Unites States”. There was a study done in 1998 that followed patients from a psychiatric hospital who were recently released, and showed they were no more prone to being violent than other members of their community. The only correlation with violence was if they had some sort of substance abuse.

Another interesting subject she talks about is guns and suicide. She states that, 60 percent of deaths caused by guns are suicides, making suicide the major public health problem for mentally ill people with guns. Due to media being so involved and being the main source of communication it sometimes misinforms and persuades the public to think negatively toward the mentally ill. In 2018 there is so much technology and resources available to people that there should be no reason why people are still being shamed for a condition they can’t control.

There should be some kind of medium between the public getting educated about different conditions and the mentally ill should be encouraged to seek help without being afraid to be labeled as the crazy person. When it comes to the gun laws, guns have been around for years and years and so has mental illness, the government should do more research as to why it is that in just recent years tragedies are being done more and more.

13 January 2020
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