Stigma Of Mental Illness In Society

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Introduction After a mass shooting, America frantically searches for the cause of the sudden and violent event. Society has repeatedly blamed the mentally ill, despite the fact that there is little correlation between violence and mental illness. In the past few decades, there have been numerous highly publicized mass shootings in which the shooters were mentally ill, such as the Virginia Tech Shooting and the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. These few, but detailed examples of violence committed by the mentally ill suggests that these situations occur frequently, however, they do not. In order to address the repeated blaming of mental illness as the cause of mass shootings, one must understand that the stigma of mental illness in society…show more content…
Stigma is “... a socio-cultural process by which members of marginalized groups are labeled by other people as abnormal, shameful, or otherwise undesirable” (Michaels, Lopez, & Corrigan, 2012). A 2013 nationwide survey revealed that 46% of Americans believed that the seriously mentally ill were more likely to be dangerous than members of the general public (McGinty, Webster, & Barry, 2014). These negative attitudes are also held by mental health professionals, which most likely results from them “...working with patients when they are in the most disturbed phase of their illness, despite this not being a typical characteristic of everyday mental illness” (Cleary, Deacon, Jackson, Andrew, & Chan, 2012). Society tends to view individual violent acts as a comprehensive representation of the mentally ill as a whole, but this violent depiction of mental illness is inaccurate in most cases. In fact, “...less than 3% to 5% of US crimes involve people with mental illness … [and] fewer than 5% of the 120,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001 and 2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with mental illness” (Metzl & Macleish, 2015). However, stigma is not based on facts. Stigma consists of general stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination (Michaels et al., 2012). Discrimination results in withholding opportunities from the mentally ill. “Discriminating against an individual may produce…show more content…
In recent years, the topic of mental illness in the news has focused on its relation to violence, despite the fact that, in America, only four percent of violence can actually be ascribed to mental illness (McGinty, Kennedy-Hendricks, Choksy, & Barry, 2016). Depictions of the mentally ill in the news are typically negative. For example, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that in 400 randomly selected news stories about mental illness from 1995 to 2014, fifty-five percent mentioned violence in relation to mental illness, but only seven percent of the stories portrayed successful treatment or recovery by the mentally ill (McGinty et al., 2016). This abundance of negative stories leads the public to believe that violence by the mentally ill is common, however, these instances are rare. This is a major problem because other research from Johns Hopkins University has shown that news stories about mass shootings committed by the mentally ill heighten negative attitudes toward people with serious mental illnesses (McGinty, Webster, & Barry, 2013). Due to the negative attitudes toward the mentally ill, the blame is more frequently and quickly placed on mental illness. Reporters often immediately look to mental illness as the cause of mass shootings. For example, soon after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, the media claimed that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was an
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