Like it or not, persons who suffer from mental illness are surrounded by a negative stigma in our society.
Persons who suffer from mental illness are sadly a very misunderstood people. Many in society act as though they are modern day lepers, expecting them to be assaultive at any moment. Being afraid of any category of people fosters disdain and not understanding.
“Many of the problems confronting people with mental illness result from public misunderstanding about psychiatric disorders. At the most harmful levels, these misunderstandings, rob people of rightful life opportunities.” (Patrick W. Corrigan)
Much of the negative stigma surrounding mental illness is a result of misunderstanding these conditions. First, and most offensive (in my opinion) is that mental illness is under the control of the person. When it is viewed as being under one’s control, people are more likely to avoid, withhold help and endorse rejection of the mentally ill. Second, is the belief that the mentally ill are responsible for causing their condition. This distorted thinking leads to fear and anger. Fear and anger in turn lead to social avoidance, social rejection and often times refusal of services or product based upon personal biases and lack of understanding.
Mental illness is often surrounded by the stereotype of being dangerous. The label of danger evokes a fear response which leads to social isolation, rejection and perpetuation of these negative stigma. When someone discloses their mental illness, often times this provides society an opportunity to label and fall into the negative stigma black hole. When you reference their mental illness as a reason for rejection, this is a wrongful betrayal to another of God’s creation. If you are a business owner and you reference one’s mental illness as a reason for rejection or refusal of services and there has never been a threat or inappropriate action in the setting of your business venture, you are begging and setting yourself up for ADA involvement.
You may be fearful because you don’t understand how another’s mind works. You may be fearful because of how you interpret one’s actions or one’s words but it may not be how/what what they intended. Have you really tried to understand why you are fearful? Is it a direct result of a face to face conversation with the one you are afraid of? Is it a result of another person’s opinion? Is it a result of your interpretation of written words? Until you TRY to foster an understanding of another person by a face to face interaction, you are failing at relationship as God intended. Social media perpetuates many misunderstandings this way. Words can often be misrepresented and tone is nearly impossible to infer (which is why I only engage in blogging and no other social media sites).
ANYTIME YOU REJECT OR REFUSE INTERACTION WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS DISCLOSED MENTAL ILLNESS YOU ARE PERPETUATING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ANOTHER HUMAN BEING….WHO IN GOD’S EYES IS JUST AS WORTH HIS LOVE AS YOU!
One disturbing trend I have seen growing lately goes back to my earlier posts, and that is people claiming they accept everyone for who they are and have no judgment toward another. Oh really? Then why does there continue to be discrimination, rejection and refusal of services by the same people who are claiming this? I see it as, THEY HAVE THEIR BLINDERS ON AND DON’T SEE THEIR ACTIONS AS OFFENSIVE OR HYPOCRITICAL. Yes, we are all human, but until people are accountable for their words matching their actions, our society will continue to perpetuate discrimination and negative stigma.
Bottom line here…get to know someone face to face before you make a decision on who you think they are. Educate yourself on mental illness and NEVER for any reason reject, refuse, avoid or belittle another human being…mental illness or not.
Love and Light,