I have to write about stigma, I hear this word often in conjunction with mental illness, any kind of mental illness. People are afraid of stigma, so they won’t get treatment, they won’t take medication, they won’t see a therapist, they won’t disclose that they have a mental illness to their boss, they won’t tell anyone because people will call them crazy, people will be afraid of them. Yes, this is all the case. But why does stigma exist? Why are people called crazy? Why are others afraid of them? Why won’t they disclose that they have a mental illness? Well, when we are ill, in a severe phase of a mental illness, when we are out of touch with reality, we are indeed “crazy”. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I know that I have thought that a witch with black magic powers was trying to literally destroy my heart, and this witch lived in Eastern Europe. Yes I really did think that in the midst of a severe, full blown manic phase. I would now consider this sort of crazy… ummm…sorry but I would. So there’s that stigma, sort of correctly placed on the severely mentally ill. Also why do people fear us? Well, we are capable of doing some truly awful things in the throes of mental illness, see Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook. Of course most mentally ill people do not commit any crimes and are not violent, and most crimes and violence is committed by “normal” people, that being said, people are still not sure what to expect of people with mental illness, and uncertainty can be frightening. So there it is, the reasons for stigma.
So how do we combat stigma? We get treatment from a psychiatrist and psychologist. We take our medication, faithfully. We do all the things we know keep us in the healthy zone like exercise, yoga, meditation. We stay normal. We don’t visit the crazy place, we don’t go there, we stay away from it. And then if we tell people we have bipolar d/o or depression, or anxiety, they see that we are “normal” and they have nothing to fear from us, or be uncomfortable about. And voila! The end of stigma, at least the beginning of the end.
Sensationalizing this tragic news story about Andreas Lubitz crashing the Germanwings jetliner into the Alps and saying things like “Crazed rookie pilot murdered 149, Madman in the Cockpit.” as The Sun (United Kingdom) did when really nothing is known about the reason the pilot did this is further stigmatizing mental illness. Stigma stops mentally ill people from reaching out for the help they desperately need. Perhaps, if Lubitz did have problems with mental illness, stigma is the exact thing that stopped him from getting help! So why? Why print sensational and irresponsible headlines about this event, why create more stigma? Why say things that have no basis in fact? Why not be responsible and present the facts as they unfold? If it is found out that it was mental illness that caused the pilot to commit this awful act, then by all means say it was. But until then, don’t make up headlines out of incomplete data. Yes I know headlines sell newspapers, but sensationalizing and making up stories when all the information is not known, well, that’s just bad journalism.
Here’s a wonderful list of things to do and don’t do from the Huff Post article (link above):
“Here are some specific do’s and don’t’s:
- Share your experience with mental disorder. Your story can convey to others that having a mental disorder is nothing to be embarrassed about.
- Help people with mental disorder reenter society. Support their efforts to obtain housing and jobs.
- Watch the language you use:
- don’t use generic labels: “retarded,” “our mentally ill”
- don’t use psychiatric diagnoses as metaphors: “schizophrenic situation”
- don’t use offensive words: “psycho,” “loony,” “crazy,” “wacko,” “slow,” “crackpot”
- don’t refer to a person as a diagnosis: “he’s bipolar,” instead say, “he has bipolar disorder”
- Document stigma in the media whenever possible
- The media also offers our best hope for eradicating stigma because of its power to educate and influence public opinion, so remember to thank journalists when they get it right.
- Send letters, make phone calls, or e-mail the offending parties
- Ask your local, regional, and national leaders to take a stand
- Support efforts to actively expose stigma in the media
- Educate yourself – the elimination of stigma begins with you
- Volunteer, join an anti-stigma campaign”
These are helpful, what The Sun is doing is not!
“Co-Pilot in Germanwings Crash Hid Mental Illness From Employer, Authorities Say” from NYTimes.com see link to article below.
It is possible that the co pilot, Andreas Lubitz, at the controls of the Germanwings jetliner that recently crashed into the Alps had undisclosed mental illness. The authorities found notes in his apartment from several doctors that said he was too ill to work, including a note from the day of the crash. He had been seen at a German hospital and they released a statement saying he was there for diagnostic purposes. No one really knows what the nature of his illness was, but now everyone is speculating. If it was mental illness, was it depression? No suicide note was found. I suppose it is logical to assume that he did this because of his illness, and suppose that this illness was mental illness. But nothing has yet been found to completely support these ideas. If he did, indeed, do this because he wanted to commit suicide because he was in a depression, how awful! In so many ways. Of course, it’s tragic for the passengers’ families and the co pilot’s family as well. Then it is also really bad for the German airlines, perhaps all airlines, that they hired this man who apparently hid his medical records from them. After that, it is really bad for us, who have mental illnesses. Yes sadly this is possible, it can happen that a person with mental illness would do this sort of thing. This is the kind of thing that reinforces the stigma against people with mental illnesses. That mentally ill people are dangerous and violent and frightening. Yes, some are. But the vast majority of violent crimes are perpetrated by people who are NOT mentally ill.
In fact look at the whole google search I did here: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=what%20percentage%20of%20mentally%20ill%20are%20dangerous
I understand other people’s fears. I understand that they are afraid of mental illness. But I also am a person with a mental illness, and know others who have it and I can’t think of anyone who has committed a violent crime. Yes, I know, it’s only anecdotal evidence, but please look at the google search I did to see that it really is true, that most mentally ill people are not violent, and also that most violent crimes are committed by people who are NOT mentally.
Aaah, this is cringeworthy indeed. I would be the happiest person on this earth if all mental illness was cured. But until that happens, please wait and see what the facts are before jumping to the conclusion, and it may well be true, that the pilot killed himself due to depression and took a 149 people with him. Heinous no matter why he did it.