“There has been an increase in the proportion of persons who associate mental illness with dangerousness, violence, and unpredictability” (Markowitz, 2005: 3) With reference to this statement, what is the public understanding of the nature and extent of mental disorder and how accurate is this?
This essay will look at the public understanding of the nature of mental disorder and to what extent it is associated with dangerousness and violence. The essay will begin by exploring the public’s perspectives and opinions on the matter and the impact that the mentally ill have on crime rates. Specific social perspectives will also be explored.. And finally the clinical approach on mental disorders will be explored and the risk factors and how the patients are diagnosed. Different definitions
Mental disorders have existed as long as humans have, although times have no changed and people have become more educated, this means that treatment for them is more readily available in society. The advancements in the knowledge of mental disorders have raised a series of problems and also solutions thus they are classified meaning that the symptoms are more easily diagnosed and treatable. There are many different definitions of mental illnesses based on peoples’ opinions and experiences. One recognisable reason behind this is the media and the media’s interpretation of the mentally ill in their portrayal of fictional characters. Hannibal Lecter and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho are both primary examples of this – both portrayed mentally ill serial killers and both came across as horrible people. These representations of the mentally ill contribute to the stereotypes throughout society, the public opinion of mentally disordered individuals relies greatly on how they are represented in the media. Overall public opinion – 627
People with mental illness often have to struggle with two problems. The obvious problem being the symptoms of the disease itself, these symptoms vary depending on the particular mental disorder but these could be hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, hearing voices or mood swings. These symptoms can make it very difficult for someone to lead a normal life and participate in everyday activities such as working. The second problem that has to be taken into consideration are the misunderstanding that occur in society in relation to mental disorders therefore leading to public stigma. It is incredibly difficult in society for those who suffer from mental illnesses, but are able to work, to find a job because employers discriminate against them and think they are incapable. Consequently, not only do those suffering from mental illnesses have to deal with the symptoms, they also have to deal with the disadvantages through the reaction in society. Furthermore, those who suffer from mental illness who encounter public stigma experience further complications as some individuals accept the common prejudices and therefore turn on themselves – this is commonly known as self-stigma. Stigmatizing attitudes emanate from various public assumptions. The media is an example of the assumptions that are created among society. The media identifies three common misconceptions regarding those with mental illnesses: ‘they are homicidal maniacs who should be feared; they are rebellious, free spirits; or they have childlike perceptions of the world that should be marvelled. (40, Hyler, Gabbard and Schneider, 1991; Wahl, 1995) These findings can be confirmed by independent factor analyses from Canada, England and Germany by identifying the following factors: First of all, fear and exclusion: the idea that individuals with severe mental disorders are to be feared and, therefore, kept out of social environments; second, authoritarianism: this is the idea that those with mental illnesses are irresponsible and therefore unable to make important decisions in life and thus should be made by others; and thirdly, benevolence: this...
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