The Stigma and Cynicism Associated With Mental Disorders

The Stigma and Cynicism Associated With Mental Disorders

| |  Psychiatry

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We often hear people being insensitive and uttering words such as "crazy", "mental" and "retarded." They do not reflect upon the literal meaning of these words, or consider the effect these words may have when said to a person who is actually suffering from a mental disorder; sometimes people scorn and ridicule an individual despite being aware that he has been diagnosed with a specific condition that primarily affects the mind, and subsequently the behavior. Others tend to shun or disregard a person who is known to display signs and symptoms of a psychological or psychiatric disorder.

Mentally ill people have been reported to perpetrate crime, cause harm to others or damage public property. However, all members of society and especially the corporate world, need to be aware that a mental patient is at a much greater risk of being harmed by the inconsideration of those around him, as opposed to them being threatened by the presence or existence of a person suffering from a mental disorder. Therefore, rather than being skeptical of a person who has been labelled "abnormal", one should show concern and be understanding towards them. It has been proven that providing proper medical attention and a strong support network reduces the probability of mental patients harming themselves or others.

It is important for society to be sensitive towards the feelings of those who do not fit the criteria of being "normal". After all, their behavior is not a personal choice so they cannot be blamed for their actions; a mental disorder and the resultant behavior of the person suffering from it, are caused by a genetic defect, resulting in the nervous system being underdeveloped (as in the case of Autism) or overactive (for example in the case of patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Moreover, it is the government's responsibility to ensure that every individual who has been diagnosed with a psychological or psychiatric disorder is given an equal status in comparison to those who are not faced with any mentally challenging disability.

  • In order to be genuinely supportive towards those who have a mental disorder it is important to have a basic understanding of these matters. Having a psychological or psychiatric disorder does not mean that an individual is not fit to be recognized as a worthy citizen of society. The point to realize is that suffering from a mental disorder is by no standards worse than having a physical handicap. A fracture or disfigurement is a visible impairment and therefore tends to attract empathy, concern and support. Just because an illness which concerns a dysfunctional or less able mind cannot be seen with the naked eye does not mean that indifferent and unkind treatment should be meted out to the person who is known to have a disorder of the mind.
  • Another factor which has stigmatized mental concerns is that psychologically ill people tend to be socially challenged; they may also seem to be slow or incapable when performing tasks which require a certain level of mental astuteness or involve apt physical coordination and motor skills. Such problems can be a source of annoyance to those who are dealing with mental patients. However, people should be made aware that such conditions can be improved or treated with proper medical aid; and that being understanding and helpful towards individuals who have mental health concerns yields favorable results.

An unfortunate misconception that causes cynicism towards mentally challenged people is that they are not productive members of society. However, the reality is that many times such individuals who seem incapable of performing ordinary tasks are in fact capable of producing above average or exceptional results in an area of their interest or with regards to a skill for which they have a natural talent. Also, if given proper training and support, they are able to perform effectively in almost all kinds of environments.

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