I have had to be very assertive when it has come to ensuring I am not made out to be violent and dangerous due to my mental health. In my notes at hospital, and with my medical team out of hospital, I have had to frequently justify myself as angry not violent. I have been sectioned and forced to stay in hospital about 15 times (I have lost count exactly how many) since 2006. Having your freedom taken away from you, while you are convinced that there is nothing wrong with you (that is part of my illness), is extremely frustrating. I have on every occasion got very angry and annoyed. However, not once has losing my temper resulted in harm to anyone else. I have been on the receiving end of violence, during hospital admissions, from both staff and other patients, but I can confidently say that not once have I ever harmed or tried to harm anyone else. That would be completely against my nature. So, why… why do so many people think mental health patients are a danger to society?
The way in which the news is reported, through all forms of media, has a lot to answer for. We learn, not only through direct experience, but also through observation. Without the opportunity to meet and create opinions about mental illness from actual sufferers, people rely on the media, in particular television, to form their views. Unfortunately, the media portrays people with mental illness as violent, murderous and unpredictable. This is a gross exaggeration and an unfair interpretation of the reality of living with a mental health condition (Srivastava et al., 2018). The result of generating views about mental health from the television is a feeling that sufferers are dangerous and people that need to be feared. Studies have shown that negative perceptions of mental illness is directly proportionate to the amount of screen time people acquire.
In truth, mental health patients are vulnerable and scared. Stigma only compounds the alienation felt, and leaves patients exposed to risks of self harm and suicide that the media choose to largely ignore. Over 90% of people who commit suicide in the UK are experiencing some form of mental distress. According to the British Crime Survey only 1% of victims of violent crime believed that it happened due to mental health, while nearly half (47%) believed that violent crime happened due to the influence of alcohol (Time To Change, 2019). If you wish to get control of your dependence on alcohol, I refer you to the work of our friend, John Dicey at EasyWay. (Obtain a £50 discount with referral code: NoStigma):
It is worth considering how stigma towards mental health is impacted by the incessant media portrayal of sufferers as, unfairly, a danger to society. Putting Stigma to Shame is hoping to get people talking about mental health. We are seeking to get sufferers to engage, by joining the platform and give non-sufferers the opportunity to learn and understand how life really is as a mental health sufferer. We have already established that you, as somebody who suffers from mental health, are less likely to be a risk to the public. But, you already knew that! Help us put stigma to shame by joining as an Allie and talking to people that have views on mental health formed by the misleading, unfair portrayal voiced by our media. The Putting Stigma to Shame Team are ‘In Pursuit of Understanding Minds’, but that can only work out if sufferers are willing to engage and create a new wave of understanding, created by just, fair and true perspectives…
We hope this post inspires you to join us on our quest. In the mean time, peace and namaste to you all!
The Putting Stigma to Shame Team
Mentalhealth.gov. (2017). Mental Health Myths and Facts | MentalHealth.gov. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].
Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Stigma and discrimination. [online] Available at: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].
Srivastava, K., Chaudhury, S., Bhat, P. and Mujawar, S. (2018). Media and mental health. Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 27(1), p.1.
Time To Change. (2019). Violence & mental health. [online] Available at: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/media-centre/responsible-reporting/violence-mental-health-problems [Accessed 6 Jul. 2019].
Varshney, M., Mahapatra, A., Krishnan, V., Gupta, R. and Deb, K. (2015). Violence and mental illness: what is the true story?.