Editorial: Mental illness does not discriminate, but the way we react does

By Kathryn Taylor
October 20, 2019

Millions of young adults in the U.S. are affected by mental illness each year. Mental illness can be defined as a “mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder.” According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. 

It is important to understand the physical, emotional and social impact mental illness can have on someone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for young Americans aged 10-24 years old has increased by 56 percent between 2007 and 2017.

With mental illness follows stigmas and stereotypes. These labels can destroy someone who is trying to heal and manage their illness when they are looked at as less than by society. Discrimination towards those with mental illness can be defined as “a negative stereotype from the public attitudes towards people with mental illnesses.” This includes insensitive jokes, nicknames, slurs and prejudice. 

Examples of discrimination

The American Mental Wellness Association has provided examples of what discrimination can look like. Some of which include: 

  • If someone has to take insulin every day to manage diabetes, the majority of people will not bat an eye. However, if someone has to take an antidepressant every day to manage depression, they are asked when they will “stop relying on artificial happiness.”
  • If someone has to be hospitalized for a week for pneumonia, they are sent get well cards and flowers. If someone has to be hospitalized for a psychiatric problem for a week, they are ignored or pushed away.

Mental health does not discriminate but the way we react to it does. Those who have a mental illness are sometimes labeled by society’s stereotypes such as “crazy,” “unstable” or “sick.” It’s easier to write people off than to actually understand it, but that needs to change. 

Society’s negative perspective on mental illness needs to stop, but we ALL are ‘society’. We should be creating a dialogue by encouraging people to talk more about what they are going through. We, as a society, need to be more understanding that mental illness is not a choice and not something they wished upon for themselves. 

Warning signs

Experiencing mental health signs can be scary and confusing. Each mental illness has different warning signs  but some of the common signs include: 

  • Avoiding friends and social activities
  • Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
  • Excessive worrying or fear
  • Feeling excessively sad or low
  • Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable “highs” or feelings of euphoria

Call to action

The only thing that will end discrimination is the proper education on what mental illness is and the different type of illnesses. It is important to also learn that sometimes the illness can be genetic, but having a mental illness does not make them any less of a person. Speaking up and speaking out when you witness discrimination can have a major impact on someone’s life. You don’t know who you can be helping.

 

Kathryn Taylor

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