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Mental Illness: Public Perception Essay

1626 words - 7 pages

Since the organization of societies in our world there have always been people who were different from the others. Mental illness is one of those things that makes people stand out from the rest of the crowd. Mental illness can be described as any one of many different kinds of diseases that alter the mind and sometimes even physical attributes. The people who have these types of diseases are usually not treated as normal members of society. In fact, people with mental illnesses are usually not treated like people at all. As a matter of fact, since the Dark Ages people with mental illness have been separated from the rest of society, and in some cases even put on display for the entertainment of the people of a town. Even the media participates in this stereotyping. Many comedians can be seen on television any given night making fun of retarded people, yet it is still shown because for some reason people think it is funny. If the people of the world would give mentally handicapped people the chance to speak about their problem, maybe then we could better understand their situation and it could become much harder for the stereotypes that have been put on these people to continue.People suffering from mental illnesses have been considered outcasts of society since these disorders were first discovered. For example, a hospital in London, originally created as a place for the poor, was changed in 1375 to a place for the mentally ill, and was regarded as "a 'lunatic asylum'" (Grayson). It was also renamed Bedlam Hospital, "reflecting the meaning of a popular word of the time for a madman or a state of confusion" (Grayson). The people who resided in Bedlam were such outcasts that the townspeople would regularly visit and "observe the patients' odd behavior as a 'novel point of amusement'" (Grayson). Bedlam was one of the very few hospitals in the world for "lunatics". People with mental illnesses were almost always kept out of public, usually in the countryside, and were taken care of by family members. It was not until later that "mental hospitals" were established, and "in the 1950s… the very controversial deinstitutionalization movement began shifting patients… back into the community" (Grayson).Around this time, people "did not distinguish mental illness from ordinary unhappiness and worry" (Grayson). They only associated violence and extreme cases as mental illness, which was greatly feared and seen as extremely "violent and unpredictable behavior" (Grayson). Surprisingly, studies show that "in 1996, even more people associated mental illness with violent behavior [than in the 1950s]" (Grayson). Even though, scientifically, society understands these illnesses more than before, people are still extremely uneasy and fearful of mentally ill patients. According to "Making Progress," an article by Mary Grayson, "education [is supposed to] lessen fear, not heighten it" (Grayson). She feels that the media encourage the stereotype of...

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