Dear World, We Are Not Monsters- Mental Illness, Media, Stigma

We can’t keep labeling people who commit heinous acts of violence with the same term used for one in four people in this county with mental health conditions.

How are we labeling these violent, heartless killers with the with the same term (“mental illness”) that is used to describe people like Robin Williams and Kay Redfield Jamison (brilliant psychiatrist and author with bipolar disorder) and the many wonderful, compassionate, kind, thriving members of our community?

Why are we lumping these countless people into one group, described by one awful term, and then only using that term in the media when these tragedies occur? How has this language not evolved?

I am not a scientist, doctor or psychologist but I know the brain is a complex organ. Why do we use one term to describe all the conditions and levels of severity of those conditions that occur with it?

These terms have evolved for people with physical disabilities, why not for mental illnesses?

What if they media talked about how the brilliant author JK Rowling (wrote Harry Potter) struggled with depression? What if in the media interviewed one wonderful person a day who is thriving in their community as a doctor, lawyer, teacher, football player? What if the media said, “You’re not a monster.” “You’re not a freak.” “See these fabulous people? You’re like them.” “You don’t have to hate yourself anymore. It’s ok to get help.” “Come out of the darkness and suffering and into our arms. We are here for you and we will take care of you.” “You deserve excellent care and that is what you will get.” “It’s strong to get help.”

What we do hear from media and our experiences:
“You are weird.”
“You are damaged.”
“You are weak.”
“You are alone in this experience”
“We don’t want to hear it.”

We beg people who are suffering and suicidal to get treatment while at the same time shaming and stigmatizing them. Why would anyone want to admit to having mental health issues when they might be stereotyped as a terrible, violent person? We are making people fear themselves and fear getting help. Our shame is poison.

Desperate people are calling for a psychiatry appointment and told there is a three month wait. Their voice breaks on the other end of the phone and the secretary hangs up. This is unacceptable.

People are going off medications that they can’t afford. Drowning in debt because their care is so expensive. They are treated like they are children, subhuman, less- than.

People are calling for help and hearing silence. They are calling for help again; still silence. People are giving up.

We are losing 3000 people to suicide every day.

We are making the next Mozart’s (suffered from mental illness) fear that they are horrible people when they could be composing sonatas. We are making the next Lincoln’s (suffered from mental illness) feel they should hide, suffering in the shadows when they could be the next president.

I am someone who is affected by the stigma. I am some who feels completely misrepresented, misunderstood, and stereotyped. But I won’t hide anymore.

I am so gentle, kind, and compassionate. I am a grad student (4.0 last semester) teacher, volunteer, friend, family member, and thriving member of my community. One time on the subway, a homeless man fell and was crying. A large group of people ignored him. I kneeled down and held his hand until I was able to get him to calm down. I talked to him about hot chocolate, marshmallows and other nice things in life. He stopped shaking and crying and said, “Thank-you.” I am an extraordinary compassionate, kind person who would never hurt a fly, yet I have felt so much shame about having a mental health condition due to the way they are portrayed in the media.

I took a cockroach out of my apartment because I don’t even like killing bugs. I gave the exterminator an organ Popsicle and asked for him not to kill the mouse in my building. I have anxiety but the other side of that anxiety is extraordinary empathy. I have a huge, happy heart.

Yes, mental healthcare is inadequate and sometimes unavailable. This has to change. We can’t look away any more. Our country not serving the people with these conditions and caring for them in the way a civilized nation should. It’s a nightmare.

But people with mental illness as a group are not more violet. We are more likely to be victims of crimes.

Other civilized countries have sick people who want to hurt others but no country has these shootings over and over. We need to improve mental health care but we need gun reform. This can’t go on anymore.

I will not be silent anymore. I will tell the story of who I am. I will ask for the media to stop telling over and over, one story about mental illness. I will encourage other people to tell their stories. I will advocate for new terms and language that do not align people w mental illness with sociopaths. Please join me in standing up against stigma. We are your family, friends, teachers, leaders.

We are not monsters.

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76 thoughts on “Dear World, We Are Not Monsters- Mental Illness, Media, Stigma

  1. Great post! I have written about the same thing myself. The media takes mental illness and exploits the hell out of it for ratings. People have told me I shouldn’t talk about mental illness too much because it could work against me. You know what works against me? Not being able to talk about it. I’m tired of people trying to play it down and put it in a corner somewhere as if it’s something you only take out when it’s “really necessary” I’m with you. I’m not shutting up about it. If I share my voice, maybe others will hear me and want to share their voice too. Every other group on the planet has spoke up for their rights and have demanded to be treated as equal yet mental illness is STILL equated to being “crazy” it’s so wrong that we’re still labeled with such derogatory words. It hurts. It’s no different then calling a black person the “N” word or a gay person a “faggot” People had to fight tooth and nail to get people to stop that line of labeling and it appears it’s no different for those of us suffering from mental illness. It’s amazing what people will say to you when they don’t know you have a mental illness…I personally love the look on their face when I tell them I have Bipolar Disorder and GAD. I refuse to be scared. Mental illness doesn’t define me. If you can like me not knowing I have a mental illness, what difference should it make in knowing that fact? I’m still the same person you were talking to before. Thank you for sharing your voice! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you for standing up for what you believe in. Thank you for being strong. And thank you for sharing wisdom words around. No more bias, no more abuse, no more labeling and name calling.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It isn’t and I was really mad that the first thing people say is that the person is crazy. I mean, yes, by all means, highlight the plight of individuals with mental illnesses but please, stop making it sound like ALL of us are going out to get guns and shooting people! Instead of fighting so hard to ban guns, hey, why don’t we fight for better mental healthcare??? Priorities… It’s all messed up.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You know a few years ago, I used to be the biggest consumer of the media. I assumed like everyone, that what was being fed to me through the television, was the truth. I never bothered to research facts, or to look deeper into these stories. Here’s the thing, Our Government knows that people with mental illness are not dangerous psychopaths, they know that there is a need for gun reform, but it is easier to place the blame on those who cannot defend themselves. The same government that tells us that “mentally Ill people are dangerous, violent, unfeeling individuals, is the same government that will go invade countries for their natural resources and kill innocent civilians.
    This is the same government that pushes Islamophobia and tells us that every single person who is a Muslim, must be a terrorist or will throw innocent black men behind bars, and claim that they are all thugs. If this is the case, why is the government spending so much money on weapons every year. The only dangerous criminals, are the ones who are sitting in their fancy offices at congress. Its quite easy to twist public opinion when you own all of the media outlets. Because you can censor and manipulate the truth to suit your personal agenda. I would encourage everyone to start doing their research, get educated on these issues and not just blindly assume that because that person has a huge platform, that they are telling the whole story.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you Rachel 🙂 I am usually the most calm person but when I hear this kind of ignorance, it always gets me riled up… one of these days I would like to go parliament so I can discuss these issues with our leaders face to face. It’s kind of ambitious but I think they need to see who they are actually stigmatizing. For now I am seriously considering having a community event to try to get this discussion out in the open. Hopefully by doing a small part, I can impact change in some way.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. Beautifully written Rachel. And I think that people linking gun violence to mental illness is politically motivated, to get the attention off gun law reform in the US. The stricter gun laws here in Australia certainly haven’t made me feel scared I can’t defend myself – they make me feel safe that weapons designed to cause huge damage are not easily accessible. But in any case, I think the discussion has to not just be around mental illness and further stigmatization – it has to be around improving treatment, making it accessible and also about gun law reform. Great post, very brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful post! I too suffer with GAD daily. I hate it but I do not let myself be defined by it. I have written a couple posts so far on anxiety and how I am working to deal with it on a daily basis. I am actually working on my doctorate in psychology right now so that maybe I can help to make a difference on this subject. I do not understand why we are all grouped into the same category when we are not the same! Even those of us with the same problem are not the same. Everyone suffers through this differently and it needs to be recognized as such.
    Again great post! Thank you for standing up!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am also troubled by GAD. It’s hard to put in to words how it makes you feel. My friends think I’m quirky and I’m very selective of my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have a very large group and extremely close friends but being around people who make me feel uneasy is impossible and I can read someone instantly. I don’t want to associate myself with people who wouldn’t help me in the same way that I would help them. I am studying Radiotherapy and Oncology but would love to read your paper when it’s published. X

      Liked by 2 people

  6. There are always going to be stigma for those who are suffering with mental illness. While the society wants us to seek help, they would run at the sight of knowing that we are suffering from one. It’s ironic that they would treat us with double standards. Always implicating that we are monsters or weaklings for not overcoming with our illness. What we can do is just educate them about the illness and show them that we are cute, fluffy ‘monsters’ after all.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. The media only wants one thing. Ratings. At ANYONE’s expense. I have no issues in telling anyone about my inner demons, emotions, whatever they may be. That’s why I love your blog so much. Keep it up!!!!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am just getting to a place where I am unashamed of my “disorders” and happy to share with anyone. It’s a part of who I am just like someone that has diabetes. No one shames them, and they don’t hide in a closet and kill themselves because of it. So neither should we.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I couldn’t agree more with this post. I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder and each time I try to help someone I end up being hurt myself. I’m a happy go lucky person who smiles at people in the street and work in the care industry. My goal in life is to make a difference to this harsh planet.
    Example: I tried to help a girl in a nightclub who had collapsed. She was picked up and carted outside to the smoking area. I wasn’t happy with this. I went to help and offer assistance and a member of the management team told me to leave. I asked nicely for them to clear the area around her and give her some space then I would leave. He got in to my face, my boyfriend who is probably the nicest and most gentle person in the world tried to ask him to not get so close to me. The manager headbutted my boyfriend, then headbutted me and punched me in the face. Completely unacceptable and nothing was done about it. I can’t help but want to be there for those in need and it always seems to end in a situation where I am a victim. The world can be cruel but I haven’t given up hope yet and I will fix it somehow. It’s nice to know there are others out there who are like me and very reassuring that it’s not all doom and gloom. Let’s keep up the good work team x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am all for helping the ones that no one else wants to pay attention to. However, the cockroach would’ve had to die.
    All jokes aside, I struggle with depression and manic depression disorder and I am completely and painfully aware of the stigma associated with mental illness. Even within families it is hard to get everyone on board and some don’t want to understand that this is a REAL and tangible thing. Most think that because it’s not considered a “physical” disease that it’s not credible and everything needs to be “gotten over.” And yes, society has poisoned us so much with the “crazy” label that even those of us that fit into that category joke about and take it lightly. Especially when in company of people who don’t understand or don’t want to. I find myself trying to make light of my situation a lot, because it’s easier than standing up and shouting “hey! this is a real issue for me and I’m damned proud of learning to cope and live life like a ‘normal’ person.” Last year was a terrible year for me for many reasons, as I fell to a low that I’ve never been to before. How I climbed out of that is still an incredible feat for me. I don’t believe anyone I know will ever understand what it took. But thank you for sharing. It’s good to know that we are being taken seriously by the select few..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate your story and reflection! ❤️❤️❤️❤️ and you cracked me up w the cockroach line! Hahahah 🐜🐜🐜
      I agree that it takes monumental strength-You’re amazing! We need to ban together and change the awful stigma and misperceptions. They are so damaging, hurtful and just plain wrong. Some of the sanest people I’ve ever meant have mental illnesses! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have catching up to do with voicing myself and being well versed and think every day should be a move forward. Lear or relearn a little more, reach one person than two and so on. I am like this on a few subjects so I multi task and can focus but I have to get a hang of new things or terms. You are doing a great job. 🙂

    Like

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this, I applaud you for being so open and wish I could be as well.

    I’m not nitpicking at all but I saw a couple spelling issues you might want to correct so your amazing post isn’t overlooked because of it (organ popsicle , violet for violent). I knew what you meant but people on the internet can be cruel.

    I’m so glad I found your blog (via The Mighty). You give me hope!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very Well said, my Dear Rachel! We are Not monsters.

    Anyway, this is how I deal with media, and others, who try to fill the air with their peculiar views. I just Ignore them, switch on to something else, and Get On with my life.

    …Love and Regards. 🙂

    Like

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