Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Face of the Mentally Ill

In the wake of the Arizona shooting, it seems to me that accusations are flying around over the internet, the television news reports and radio broadcasts. These reports assume that if people would just be more civilized then we would all "get along" and crazy appalling incidents like the Arizona shooting would never happen.  The incident was allegedly the fault of one person....Jared Lee Loughner. His alleged shooting spree left  six dead, fourteen wounded, and many grieving familes. Their lives will never be the same.
But, the purpose of this post is to focus on yet another accusation meted out by a local television station here in the Dallas area. A few days ago they profiled a mentally ill individual that lives in the Dallas area. I'm unsure as to how they obtained access to this person's home, but the television crew was in the home shooting video just as if they had the right to be there. The lead-in to the story was: This is the life of the mentally ill. The implication was that this person was similar to the personality of Jared Loughner, and futher more that the disgusting filth of the featured home is typical of the homes and lives of all mentally ill people.
The newscaster stated that the police watch this person constantly because it is believed he might commit a henous act on society. The authorities may well have good reason to watch this person, but the news report admitted this person had to date committed no crime.
My objection addresses the tone of this report. To lump all mentally ill individuals in the "untouchable" caste is a disservice to people who valiantly struggle with mental illness everyday. The world of all mentally ill persons is not the same. It is this "fear" factor that has caused so many mentally ill people to struggle alone avoiding the stigma that comes with the label of "mentally ill". In fact, the Surgeon General states that 20% of the population of the United States has some form of mental disorder with 15% of Americans seeking some type of mental health service. ( library  Most of these individuals work hard at taking their medications, making their doctor's appointments and living each day as "normally" as they possibly can. Most of these people are not in any way a danger to society. They successively struggle with serious depression, bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and schizophrenia every day. They might be your next door neighbor, the clerk at the department store, an engineer in a large company or even your mail carrier. The face of the mentally ill could be anyone of us. I am disappointed in the Dallas television station for presenting such a narrow view of a mentally ill person. My advice to the station is to do the research before lumping all mentally ill persons in the group of people that truly are a danger to society..


Penny said...

That's so disheartening. :( I think you should email this post to that station (or I can do it for you, if you want!) Some people are just ignorant about mental illness (and the inherent wide range of symptoms) and then there's ENCOURAGING ignorance, which is even worse. That was pretty irresponsible, on their part.

Sarah said...

I thought the news segment did perpetuate a myth. This post was more serious than my normal posts so I'm thankful for getting a comment. Thank You!!