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If you have ever seen a horror movie where the bad guy is mentally ill then you have seen an example of what the media does to stigmatize them. There are even Halloween costumes that stigmatize them. Have you ever seen a costume where someone is in a straight jacket? That feeds the stigma.
Some of you may be thinking I am overreacting and I'm not. I'll tell you why: the mentally ill are not dangerous and it is irresponsible and wrong to portray them as so because it can prevent them from getting care, compassion and in some cases medication. It shames them into silence. More often than not those with mental illness are victims of abuse and need care and compassion but because of stigma people are too scared to help or in some cases interact with the mentally ill.
The mentally ill are not scary. They are people just like everyone else. They have feelings, hopes and dreams. They also have a lot to offer if given the chance.
Many times on the news you will see conversations of mental illness pop up around mass shootings. Maybe they were mentally ill and maybe they weren't but the fact remains that only 3-5 percent of violent crimes are committed by people with a mental illness .
As I stated before the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of abuse. This means they are a very vulnerable group of people who need to be protected. Depending on the severity of the illness some of them may be dependent on an abuser for basic care needs. This is why we need to change the way we view them. Many times if they ask for help they will not be taken seriously.
On the other end of the spectrum there are those who have to suffer in silence and hide their mental illness in fear of being viewed as different or scary. They go through their every day life as if nothing is wrong. Mental illness is not easy. It can be very isolating and if you don't get help for it sometimes it can be deadly.
So what can we do? We can listen to people and be there for them. We can refrain from judging them, and be an advocate. One of the biggest things that needs to happen before any progress can be made is we need to get educated. We need to learn about the topic of mental illness so it isn't as scary and foreign. Mental illness and the mentally ill are not that scary once you get to know them. Once you get educated you can teach others. This is huge because we fear the unknown and mental illness is very unknown.
A good place to start educating yourself would be Kati Morton. She is a YouTuber and an LMFT (licensed marriage and family therapist) who talks about mental illness and what it is and how it affects people. She puts it in a light that is not scary but still explains what it is truthfully.
NAMI is another great resource. NAMI stands for National Alliance for Mental Illness. Here is their website. NAMI even has a stigma free pledge you can take.
There is a lot of great information out there but you have to look for it. We can make a difference for those fighting this uphill battle but we need to take those first steps.