New: ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Taking a Pounding

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday February 20, 2013 - 06:39:00 PM

Persons with mental illness need to shoulder some of the responsibility for our actions, but this is not one hundred percent. A psychotic or bipolar illness can at times disconnect us from reality, and this means improper actions that we do not always control. 


The behavior of persons with mental illness sometimes needs improvement. This is not usually due to bad intentions. The illnesses create delusions and other problems that often cause behaviors that get interpreted as antisocial. Thus, not only do we suffer from our illnesses, but we also suffer due to being excluded from social and business situations, through a bad standing that is often no fault of our own, in effect created by our illnesses. 

Furthermore, the stigma of having a mental illness is enough by itself, without the presence of inappropriate actions, to get us excluded from many social and business situations. People are ignorant and they behave in a bigoted manner toward us, including in the absence of actual provocation and simply because of the label of mentally ill person. 

When someone as a young adult becomes mentally ill, they often are "dumped" by college and high school friends. A mental illness of a spouse is often a reason why people get divorced. The spouse needs someone who can support and take care of the family, something a disabled person sometimes can't do. Even when not much is expected, a person who becomes mentally ill is often rejected by their spouse. 

Getting hired is yet another arena in which mentally ill people get excluded. Employers may fear excessive baggage or may simply not want to take a perceived risk of hiring someone with a mental illness. There is apparently an entire branch of law practice devoted to defeating ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) lawsuits. A website for large companies commented gleefully that ADA cases for persons with mental illness who seek reasonable accommodation are easily dismissed. 


In the gun control debate currently taking place as conveyed by news media, persons with mental illness as a category are taking quite a pounding. NRA officials falsely assert that more restrictions on people with mental illness will solve the problem of violence in society. Meanwhile, in the fairly progressive news service of CNN, only a small amount of lip service is given to the important fact that persons with mental illness aren't responsible for most gun violence or other violence. 

In numerous venues, persons with mental illness are being blamed for everything that's wrong. People on the other side of the gun debate who want to place more restrictions on the availability of these weapons are vilifying persons with mental illness as well when calling for closure of loopholes that allow people to circumvent background checking. (My wife pointed out to me that we are giving massive publicity to gun violence that happens in predominantly white suburbia, while the gun violence that is almost constant in poor neighborhoods is barely reported.) 

Additionally, there are several movies playing that sensationalize persons with mental illness as extremely violent, sick and demented people. This is not an accurate portrayal. 

The NRA and the mass media are comfortable slamming persons with mental illness because they assume that they will not be held accountable by a minority that for the most part doesn't have a voice-persons with mental illness. 

Persons in society at large continue to discriminate and may have the misconception that we are without feelings. People may have the false impression that they are not harming anyone when they exclude persons with mental illness and behave callously toward us. Persons with mental illness feel pain, just like anyone else. 

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