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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Stereotyping, Stigmatisation and Myths.

Stereotyping and Stigmatisation

Stereotyping
Stereotyping
 Stereotyping is a large and relevant topic surrounding mental health. To stereotype is to prejudge someone as belonging to a certain type (Ref….to be added…..). A common and very real fear of many people seeking help is being prejudged or finding themselves stereotyped and having concerns about stigmatisation. To be concerned about being put in a ‘pigeon-hole’, being labelled, being disregarded, being misunderstood, ashamed, embarrassed or even criticised can be tremendous hurdles people may face when coming to terms with a mental health problem and even on an ongoing basis. The thought of being stereotyped from most peoples’ point of view is not a pleasant experience, especially if one comprehends such thoughts as negative in a variety of contexts and if it happens to lead to negative feelings and/or behaviors. Perhaps some people (other people that we know) fear the unknown and a quick response to even initial interaction with a person with a mental illness or disorder, may be to be put up a barrier of protection for themselves. I have found that as the majority of people I have known do not actually enjoy talking about mental health, maybe part of it is the unknown. Just imagine facing a new situation that is not particularly well-known to yourself. I imagine for example, if I were to visit a prison cell, I too might be quick to label, stereotype, and/or not acknowledge or consider the reasons what may have lead the particular person/people to be in their own situation. The point is not right or wrong (laws etc.), good or bad, it is prejudging ALL people who are mentally ill, those who have defied or broken the law, those of different religions, cultures and so-on, all to be the same . Some people with a mental health problem are indeed dangerous, but only a small percentage though(Ref..to be added…….). Believing that people with a mental illness are dangerous is very detrimental to how society copes and relates to mentally ill people. Statistics will tell us for example that a person with schizophrenia is around 2000 times more likely to harm him/herself that somebody else (Ref……………………….). We often hear of isolated incidents that seem to feed the concept of stereotyping and for the high majority of people suffering a mental health disorder or illness, this stigmatised thinking tends to regard them and all others as being similar, the same, or that they should be avoided etc. when in actual fact most are not dangerous. Many people with a mental illness or disorder actually fear OTHERS and are no more likely to hurt anyone else than anybody in the general population. For many people receiving a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, it can seem like being branded with a label attached to themselves. A fear for such people is when others recognise this ‘label’ they may be quick to assume wrong assumptions such as s/he is dangerous. Stigmatisation is an enormous hurdle for people with a mental health problem. Much like most people who are deaf, disabled or the like, the majority of people with a psychiatric disability do NOT necessarily want to be treated any differently to anyone in the general population.

Stigmatisation :

A common and very real fear of seeking help is stigmatisation. To be concerned about being put in a pigeon-hole, being labelled, being disregarded, being misunderstood, ashamed, embarrassed or even criticised can be tremendous hurdles that people may face. The thought of being stereotyped (and certainly from my experience) generally is not a pleasant experience especially if it leads to negative feelings and/or behaviors from others.

What is stereotyping and stigmatisation ? Stereotyping is to prejudice someone as belonging to a certain type (to typecast or put in a pigeon-hole) or a fixed IDEA which is often not true in reality. Stigmatisation relates to bad or often unfair FEELINGS that people in general have about a particular illness, way of behaving and so-forth.

Maybe some people (other people) fear the unknown and a quick response to even initial interaction with a person with a mental illness may be to put up a barrier of protection for themselves. I have personally found that a majority of people I have known do not like talking about mental health issues, and maybe as such, part of this could be the unknown. Imagine you were in a new situation where stigmatisation could initiate. For me, to imagine myself in a new situation that is not particularly well-known to myself, it could bring up issues of stigmatised thinking. For example, I imagine if I were to visit a prison cell, I might too be quick to label, stereotype and see things as ‘black or white’ with no shades of grey, and more-so actually discriminate, judge or condemn. So how would I feel if I happened to be in prison even whether I was innocent or not. The point is here not necessarily revolving around moral issues or the like, but HOW IT FEELS or would feel. How would it feel to be in the position or similar circumstances that others are in? Even if people have made mistakes or done some sort of ‘wrong’, there can be stigma attached.

It can seem like being branded in a derogated way for those receiving a diagnosis so a fear for such people is that when others recognise this ‘label’ they may be quick to assume wrong assumptions such as that he or she is dangerous. Stereotyping a person with a mental disorder or illness can greatly contribute to stigmatisation which is a problem we face on an ongoing basis.

Myths :

Myths are generally still quite profound in the overall arena of mental health. Some mythical beliefs are completely untrue and many issues are misunderstood. Increasing an awareness of the truths and fallacies in mental health will help enable an improvement in general society’s perception of many mental health issues.

A classic myth that stands out in general society is the myth of possession of demons. Sadly, many people are still influenced by this very misleading myth that people with psychiatric problems (particularly psychotic illnesses) are ‘demon possessed’. Of course (for those who believe in spirits and the like), one is not immune to such spirits whether a person does or doesn’t have any clinical diagnosis.

I was personally saddened once to have witnessed well-meaning people trying to perform some sort of exorcism with the intent to release an evil spirit, when highly likely chances were (in this case), that there wasn’t even a spirit there in the first place. As a wise teacher of mine once said (who was also a minister) ” if we have concerns about such ‘spiritual’ issues, do not step outside our area of expertise, but seek a reputable experienced minister who has knowledge and experience in dealing with such spiritual issues”.

Another stand-out myth is that people with a mental illness are dangerous. Truth is that very few are dangerous. Many people with an illness can be quite anxious and fearful of others (Ref…………………….). Some are very passive, contrary to any belief of people with a mental illness being dangerous, violent or ‘bad’. Yes, some are dangerous and there are isolated incidents that occur (such as homicide), where there are strong indications of a person being quite deranged. However, generally in mental health, most are no danger to others, no more than the general population. An example of how false this generally is, is that people with schizophrenia are approximately 2000 times more likely to harm themselves than another person (Ref………………………). Most people with a mental disorder or illness are not dangerous. Another myth is that people with a disorder or illness are not as intelligent as others. Many recorded historical figures would have been anything but ‘under-intelligent’.

To make a list clearer about those having a psychiatric problem, some common myths are listed below. These are NOT true-
* they are demon possessed
* they are dangerous
* they are not intelligent
* they can or will never change or get better
* they should be put away ( or locked-up )
* they should be put in hospital
* they are all just looking for attention and/or being full of self-pity
* they have attitude problems, that’s all
* they are mentally ill because of childhood trauma/problems
* they are born with a mental illness/disorder
* they have an intellectual disability and/or they have brain damage
* they will have to take medication for their entire lives
* their families are to blame for their mental illness/disorder
* mental illness is consistently the same across all cultures.

Myths and TRUTHS or realities are listed as follows :

Myth 1 : People with a mental illness are demon-possessed.

Reality : Some may be, but most are not. An individuals perception of demons may influence their concept of “demon-possession”. However, if the majority of people believe in good or evil, many people may interpret a person with a mental illness or disorder as someone who is possessed or evil. A psychiatric diagnosis does NOT necessarily indicate any association with demonic possession or evilness. Yet, a small percentage of people with a diagnosed disorder or illness may be ‘evil’ (talking by standards of social norms), yet this also applies to the general population.

The point is, is that some people may be perceived to be possessed by a demon but generally speaking, a mental health disorder or illness does NOT constitute evilness at all. This is a sensitive matter and there may be strong debate about this but the point is that if people with a mental health disorder or illness are demon-possessed, then they would probably be regarded as dangerous, right? Well, most people with a mental disorder or illness are no more dangerous than anyone else (please refer to ‘myth 2′ for more about this).

Myth 2 : People with a mental illness or psychiatric problem are dangerous.

Reality : Most people with a psychiatric problem or diagnosis are no more dangerous than anyone else in the general population(Ref………………..). Even people with severe mental illnesses usually are not dangerous (Ref A.A.I. p.11). Unfortunately, the media gets hold of isolated incidents where a person with a mental health disorder or illness does something terrible and as a result basically the whole world may know about it. Certainly tragic incidences happen involving those who may be regarded as mentally disturbed or deranged. However, we tend to exaggerate the likelihood of people with a mental illness or disorder to perform some terrible act and we tend not to acknowledge or to be aware of the amount of people in general society with a psychiatric problem who do not and probably will not ever engage in some type of horrific violation such as violence or homicide.

To deny facts or as some may say “to put one’s head in the sand” may pose particular dangers in itself. Here, we may initially think about the misfortunes of stigmatization and the negative effects it can have on those with a psychiatric diagnosis in thinking that they are all dangerous and should be avoided, and about the problems that this may lead to for those who are unwell in terms of things such as employment, but there is another angle to it too. Let’s say for example that one (a ‘mentally-well’ person) was to deny that another person (someone with a diagnosed disorder/illness) may be dangerous when there might be signs of imminent danger or possible danger at any given stage. Let’s assume that the person who may be displaying signs of becoming dangerous to others (or even him/herself) has any given mental disorder. So, here we have a situation of someone displaying signs of danger to others or him/herself and who also has a mental disorder, and somebody else who is in denial that this first person could possibly cause danger. It may be cause for alarm. Some are dangerous yes, but the high majority of people with a diagnosed psychiatric disorder or illness pose no more threat than the average citizen or resident. However, as not to put our heads in the sand, we need to acknowledge that within a very limited amount of mental disorders or illnesses (“illnesses” may be the more appropriate term/word here) there are higher risks of danger to others or to the sufferer of a particular disorder/illness. It should be noted that people with schizophrenia are more likely than others to commit violent crime (ref….. myers. p475……). Now, this states “more likely” NOT “will!. It does NOT imply that most will nor that they should be feared. I have been in the company of many people with schizophrenia and have not been alarmed by any of them in relation to fears of harm or abuse of any sort. Assuming that people with a mental illness are usually dangerous is a false perception that is beneath some of the most damaging stereotypes (Ref A.A.I. p.11). Statistical facts can prove that at least 9 in every 10 people with a disorder/illness are NOT dangerous (Ref Myers p.475). On top of this, patients who are discharged from mental health hospitals are no more likely to become violent than anyone else in the general community IF they stay away from drugs and alcohol (Ref E.P. p.475).

The prevalence of harmful incidences of those with a psychiatric disorder/illness is hardly any more than that of others, but other concerns are applicable for how people with a mental illness/disorder may behave, such as criminal activity ( for more information about this, please refer to……………….)

Myth 3: People with psychiatric problems are not intelligent :

Reality : (to be added later)

Myth 4 : People with psychiatric disorders will never change or get better.

Reality : Some people will remain unwell (more-so, with serious illnesses such as Paranoid Schizophrenia), but generally, when treated appropriately and early, many people recover fully. A mental disorder or illness is like many physical illnesses which need on-going treatment (such as diabetes), but which can be managed so that the person can participate in everyday life.

Speaking personally, I was absolutely convinced before my 4-year treatment of OCD which was clinically severe to extreme, that I was ‘gone’; no hope. Despite my strongest doubts and my stubborn perception that my disorder was there to stay for life, I was wrong. It can take an enormous effort, years of help and several other elements, but generally speaking, many mental health problems such as depression can be turned around, and in-fact, perhaps even help us to develop and to be able to manage life adversaries more effectively. This is a general statement, because yes, for reasons beyond the scope of this article, some people remain unwell.

Myth 5 : They should be put away/ locked up/ institutionalised.

Reality : Many people with a mental health diagnosis recover reasonably quickly and do not need hospital care, or they may only need brief admissions to hospital. Treatment discoveries of recent decades have removed the need for isolation and confinement as was past practice. However, a small amount of people with a diagnosed illness or disorder (perhaps somewhere around 1 in 1,000) need hospital care (sometimes against their will). It is very important to note or acknowledge that this is not the situation for the vast majority of those who may have an episode of illness.

One of the most significant hurdles that can face a person with a mental disorder or illness (perhaps even more so if they need to be hospitalised) is confronting the attitudes of their family, friends, employers and so-forth that they may hold towards them because of their problem.

Myth 6 : They should be put in hospital.

Reality : Only under particular circumstances should someone with a mental disorder or illness be put in a psychiatric hospital. Mental health hospitals have their purpose. I as the author of this site have personally been admitted to various mental health hospitals and understand the dynamics of their function and purpose. People should not be put in a mental health hospital unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask any psychiatrist and they will back this up (see…………. for more about under what circumstances a person with a psychiatric diagnosis should be hospitalized….added later).

Hospitals have their purpose and they are not designed, intended or indeed used just to put all sick people away. Putting people in there just because of a diagnosed disorder or illness is detrimental to the person. There are though situations and times when a hospital is the best, most appropriate and/or safest option for those with psychiatric problems but putting everybody in there with a mental health problem would generally be self-defeating, inhumane and would indeed stunt the overall recovery or management for the individual and would deprive the person of opportunities to learn how to manage their disorder or illness while living in the general community.

Some people may think or say that the general community would be better served or safer if everybody with a mental disorder or illness was put in hospital or some type of institution in relation to fears such as the safety of the general community. They may perceive all people with a psychiatric problem to be a risk or hazard because we don’t always know who might do something awful, terrible or hurt other people. The same (as others may say) could be said of anyone among the general community. But the first person here may argue that those with a psychiatric disorder or illness are more likely to cause harm to others because of their disorder or illness. This is a fallacy as generally speaking most people with a psychiatric disability or problem are no more likely to cause harm to others than anyone else (Ref. A.A.I. ………………..)

There are exceptions though and one diagnosis that warrants concern among the general community is that of Anti-social Personality Disorder. For more information about issues of danger, please refer to “Myth 2″.

Myth 7 : People with a psychiatric problem are only looking for attention :

Reality : Attention-seeking may be a part of particular individual behaviours of certain types of psychiatric problems however, many people with a psychiatric diagnosis do not seek attention to a large degree. This is a debatable topic and part of this can include an inbuilt desire of human-beings to be socially accepted and have a sense of love and belonging. Perhaps a part to be considered is what is of “normal” needs of the average person including social acceptance and a desire of recognition to that of exaggerated demeanours which may be interpreted as attention seeking.

Myth 8 : They just have attitude problems, that’s all.

Reality :

Myth 9: They are mentally ill because of childhood trauma/problems.

Reality:

Myth 10: They are born with a mental illness/disorder.

Reality:

Myth 11: They have an intellectual disability and/or they have brain damage:

Reality:

Myth 12: They will have to take medication for their entire lives:

Reality:

Myth 13: Their families are to blame for their mental illness/disorder:

Reality:

Myth 14
: Mental illness is consistently the same across all cultures:

Reality:
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