At the start of the 21st century, the understanding of mental illness, mental disorders and intellectual and physical disabilities had grown significantly. Before this there was barely any medical help to provide for the mentally disabled. The explanation for having a mental illness was centred on the patient being possessed by evil spirits or demons, often resulting in an exorcism. A lot of sane people that were misdiagnosed were imprisoned in institutions such as Bethlem Hospital. The mentally ill are now allowed to be managed away from hospitals or institutions due to the development of sophisticated medication in the late 20th century and early 21st century. In the past, the mentally ill had almost no rights. Common discrimination to people with mental disabilities has emerged from society’s lack of knowledge and the impact of the media. In the past, all mental illnesses and disorders were considered the same, therefore treated the same. Now however it is clear that there is a difference between them and can be categorised into three areas; mental illness, mental disorder and intellectual disability. MENTAL ILLNESS
Mental illnesses are usually the result of a dysfunction of the brain. They are quite common, having approximately 1 in 5 Australians suffering from this illness and two-thirds of those people suffering a diagnosable treatment yet do not seek treatment. According to Section 4 of the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW), the definition of a mental illness is ‘a condition which severely impairs, either temporarily or permanently, the mental functioning of a person and is characterised by the presence in the person of any one or more of the following symptoms: a) delusion
c) serious disorder of thought form
d) a severe disturbance of mood
e) sustained or repeated irrational behaviour, indicating the presence of any one or more of the symptoms referred to in paragraphs (a) – (d).’ Although we have moved a lot with time, people suffering with a mental illness still suffer discrimination. Mental illnesses can be sub-categorised into psychotic illnesses and non- schizophrenia and certain types of depression. psychotic illnesses. Psychotic illnesses referring to a person’s thought processes being altered due to changes in behaviour and emotion. These may include illnesses such as A non-psychotic illness is the feeling where sadness, tension and mild depression become overwhelming and the person finds it difficult to cope. This type of illness may include things like anxiety, phobias, some sorts of depression and eating disorders. MENTAL DISORDERS
According to the Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) section 15, a mental disorder is described as ‘people who are behaving irrationally and are a danger to themselves or others but do not satisfy the criteria outlined under the Act for mental illness,’ for example, feeling suicidal. INTELLECTUAL DISABILITIES
An intellectual disability is completely different from a mental illness or disorder as it is initiated from an injury or disease, such as a motor vehicle accident. Another differentiation between the two is the age in which the person gets them. Intellectual disabilities may start from birth, whereas a mental illness is more common among the adolescent years and early adulthood. PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
It is common for physical disabilities to arise at birth, perhaps by the way in which the midwifes handled the child coming out, or another common way to get a physical disability is through an accident or injury. Discrimination is still prominent through education, employment and promotion for people suffering a physical disability.
THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA
A lot of our knowledge about mental illnesses and disorders were because the impact that media has upon us. Although the media can do a lot of good in telling us facts and ways to help mental illnesses, such as the ads for kids helpline, the media is well known for subtly discriminating people with mental illnesses. They convey these types of disorders through characters who are outcasts, setting the image that it isn’t normal to suffer from these. ‘Phyco’ and ‘weirdo’ are commonly used to describe these characters which immediately give off a negative connotation with having a mental illness. Most killers in shows such as ‘Criminal Minds’ are all portrayed as schizophrenic, when in reality, people suffering with a mental illness are not violent or dangerous. LEGAL RIGHTS
‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself/herself and of his/her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his/her control.’ This is a part of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). This is ensuring that even if you do suffer from a physical or mental disability / illness, that your rights are protected. Speaking generally, everyone undergoes the same human rights, whether you have a mental/physical disability or not. There are some exceptions to the rule however, for example if you are suicidal you may not have the freedom of movement if the hospital detains you or are concerned for your safety.