There are so many myths about mental illness and violence. In fact, part of the stigma of mental illness is due to fears of violence. I wince every time someone with a psychiatric diagnosis commits a crime because it reinforces this stigma and teaches people to be afraid because they believe there is a link between mental illness and violence. But a study by Northwestern University found that most mental illnesses aren't predictors of violence.1 The only exception is a substance abuse disorder. So how do we shatter the myth that mental illness means a person will be violent?
Recovering from Mental Illness
Through my years of mental illness treatment, I've identified three things that everyone with a mental illness should know. I was diagnosed with a mental illness the summer after my freshman year of college. I was relieved to finally know what was happening to me and felt considerably better once I started medication. But I had many questions, and few answers. And I would encounter many confusing things on my journey toward mental health, ranging from stigma to what the best course of treatment was. Along the way, I learned three things that everyone with a mental health diagnosis should know.
There are lies about psychiatric medications. Psychiatric medications are controversial due to the stigma of mental illness. I remember a college friend of mine told me she didn't trust anything that altered the emotions, even though she admitted the medications had made a positive difference in my life. It doesn't help that there is a lot of misinformation about psychiatric medications. Here are three lies people believe about psychiatric medications.
There are many good quotes and conversations about the stigma attached to mental illness. We owe it to ourselves to listen to and discuss these quotes as an effort to acknowledge the mental illness stigma. Fighting stigma is one of the steps to recovery from mental illness. So here are three quotes, and some possible discussions to have about mental illness stigma.
Just like there is stigma around mental illness, there is also stigma when it comes to mental illness treatment center locations. Several years ago, an Indianapolis hospital closed, leaving a large vacant building. A drug and alcohol treatment center wanted to move into the abandoned hospital. The problem--said building was a few blocks away from the Indianapolis Children's Museum. During the public hearings on the proposal, the Children's Museum vigorously denounced the idea, citing concern for the children. The building remains empty. Was the outcry necessary or was it an example of mental illness treatment center location stigma?
Red Bull may give you more than wings: it can give you symptoms of mental illness. What do the studies say about energy drinks and psychiatric symptoms such as mania, psychosis, and substance abuse?
Ruminating can harm your mental health recovery because when you "go over in the mind repeatedly and often casually or slowly" you compulsively remind yourself of what is wrong. It's negative thoughts compounded by repetition and habit, making rumination dangerous. People with depressive and other mental illnesses often have a similar trait: many suffer from excessive and compulsive negative thoughts that distort reality. Thus, rumination involves an endless loop of negative thinking that can exacerbate depression and other mental illnesses.
Unfortunately, abused people often believe certain lies. No one wakes up one day and says, "I think I'll fall in love with an abusive person." Many people in abusive relationships report that there was no violence until the relationship was well-established. At this point, conflicting emotions come into play--and emotions can be powerful and confusing. The fact that abused people believe lies makes the situation even more complicated. Here are three lies abused people believe.
Police shootings of the mentally ill are all far too common. Recently, a neighbor I nicknamed "The Little Old Lady with the Big Ol' Temper" found out her disability check was going to be a day late. This 4'10", 140-pound, 70-something lady grabbed her cane and started destroying the social worker's office. Two police officers responded, and she resisted. In the scuffle, her head went through a window. Many other encounters between police officers and people with mental illness have a less happy ending. According to the Maine Attorney General's Office, 58% of Maine residents killed by police had a mental illness(http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/osa/pubs/data/2013/SEOWEpiProfile2013FINAL.pdf). The rate may be similar nationwide, but there's no way to track it.
I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for the first time in college. Because I went to an out-of-state university, my family was unable to help, so a friend took me to a psychiatric hospital. Both my family and my friend had concerns: How long was I going to be there? What was going to be done to keep me from committing suicide? What exactly could I expect? Here are three things families and friends need to know about psychiatric hospitalization.