In the early 1900’s, most people with mental illness were sent to institutions. These institutions were similar to prisons. Some patients were chained to their beds and otherwise mistreated. Anyone with a mental illness was seen as a potential danger to society and their communities. Eventually in the 50’s and 60’s many of these institutions were shut down, and mental illness started to be treated in hospitals or in less restrictive settings. However, even though the society has begun to understand mental illness a little bit more, there is still a long way to go.
Mental illness today may be more understood, but there is still a stigma surrounding them. People tend to blame the mentally ill for their disease. They can be viewed as lazy or irresponsible, and many times mental illness is viewed as less real than physical illness.
The Dangers of Stigma
A negative view of mental illness can lead to discrimination and violence. A negative view is dangerous because it can:
- Lead to a reluctance to seek treatment.
- Cause a sense of being ostracized.
- Be the result of fewer job or school related opportunities.
- Make finding a place to live harder.
- Lead to bullying, violence or harassment.
- Be related to a lack of health insurance coverage.
- Cause a sense of hopelessness.
A stigma can lead to a person with mental illness feeling like they are the problem. It can lead to suicide or self-harm.
Leaving Stigma Behind
There are many ways that the stigma around mental illness can be lessened, but it has to be done by everyone involved. The only way for stigma to be truly left behind is for people to realize the error of their ways. People need to reach a better understanding of mental illness, its causes and how it can affect the lives of the mentally ill. Do not be a part of the problem. Try to show support and understanding towards mental illness. If you have mental illness, seek treatment and join support groups to lessen the feeling of being ostracized.