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Bipolar and the News


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I'm finding a disturbing trend in recent news stories of violent crimes. The perpetrators seem to all be labelled with a "serious mental illness" which is listed as either bipolar or schizophrenia. Even though many of these people haven't been diagnosed, even though some aren't bipolar or schizophrenic at all, they are lumped in with us automatically by the media. I'm disturbed by this because it reinforces the stigma that all "seriously mentally ill" people are dangerous. I feel even more in the closet than ever before. My diagnosis remains a secret to all but my family and one close friend. 

 

How do we convince the media to print stories about the success of people living with bipolar and schizophrenia who aren't a danger, who do contribute to society, and who do live a happy life? I want to start a movement, I do, but I'm afraid to put my name out there. I feel that my kids will lose their friends, I will lose respected volunteer positions and responsibilities, it will hurt my husband's military career and reputation, and I feel that future employers will decline to hire me. 

 

So how do we address this? Although reliable sources state that very few mentally ill people commit crimes, and are far more likely to be the victim, the impression of Americans - some 68% from the survey's I've read - is that we are not to be trusted. I think I'm going to write to a news outlet or two. This coverage and misinformation must be counteracted. Something has to change, or we will be victimized even more.

 

The stigma is real, it's frightening, and even I, an affected person, worry now. Could I snap one day? Could I have hidden dangers lurking inside? We need to turn this around. Let's make something happen! Will anyone join me?

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Did you read my blog or post? I'm guessing so. I a totally on board with you. Although the media, IMO, will never post something that is not sensationalizing. Unfortunately.

Actually, I didn't see your blog! I'll have to look that up. I'm glad we're of the same mind. I have submitted my story request to several media outlets in the hope that someone will pick up the story and run with it. It would be fabulous to see a positive article in the media. 

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SugarBooger, you are absolutely right. The general public believes in a false link between mental illness and violence. Media reports on terrible crimes tend to blame those crimes on mental illness, even when the perpetrator doesn't have a diagnosis

 

The idea that mental illness and violence are connected is what creates stigma. In most cases, I disagree with E. Fuller Torrey (founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center), but he's correct about the link between perceptions of violence and stigma.

 

So how do we combat stigma? How do we fight this false perception?

 

Most anti-stigma advocates believe that talking about mental illness in medical terms helps to reduce stigma. Unfortunately, evidence suggests the contrary.

 

The medical model of mental illness actually contributes to stigma. The idea that we are all "diseased" or "ill" is part of why the public sees us as ticking timebombs.

 

Some evidence, from the British Journal of Psychiatry's article "Biogenetic explanations and public acceptance of mental illness" (http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/199/5/367.full.pdf):

 Angermeyer’s systematic review concludes that biogenetic explanations for mental illness are correlated with less tolerance of people with mental illness amongst the general public, and therefore, basing anti-stigma work on biogenetically based causal models is an inappropriate means of countering stigmaIn general, the disease view did not improve attitudes, except in terms of blame. It did, however, tend to provoke harsher behavior. 

"Biogenetic" explanations are those that blame mental illness on genes and biology rather than on complex social factors (the psychosocial approach).

 

So what does this mean? The idea of mental illness as a sickness like any other, although well-intended, has set our community back.

 

Want to combat stigma? Want to change the (false) idea that mental illness/violence are linked? Maybe we should start by calling it something other than "illness."

Edited by quamquam
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I agree with everyone here. I am bleeping tired of the news blaming nearly every single major crime on mental illness. The Washington DC shooting a couple of days ago the news is obsessing on how she was "delusional" and how this makes people with mental illness dangerous. Every single major shooting the news goes on about is blamed on mental illnesses according to the news. They always pick the shooting that is linked with mental illness and ignore all the other shootings and murders that take place in the US. I am pissed at the news for doing this. There are around 16,000 murders a year in the US. but lets focus on the ones that are blamed on mental illness says the news. The news NEVER has talked about how someone with mental illness especially the more serious ones like bipolar and schizophrenia that have done something positive. Or that are successful. No. Just spread the stigma that will never change unless the news starts changing their attitude about mental illness. But that will never happen unless millions of people with mental illness write in and force the news stations to talk about the positives of mental illness. I mean people with bipolar and schizophrenia are very creative and make good artists. In fact I am an artist. And depending on my mood it shows on my art. When I am more "up" my pictures are overly bright colored. But the people who buy my art like that. When I am depressed I don't draw as much but when I do, the colors are darker. The news truly makes it sound like EVERY SINGLE PERSON WITH MENTAL ILLNESS ARE WILD DANGEROUS ANIMALS THAT NEED TO BE SHOT AND TORTURED. Yes, I am obsessed about what goes on in the world but once there is a mass shooting the first thing that pops into my head but I pray I am wrong is how they will blame it on mental illness. 

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I'm glad it's not just me! I want to DO something about this. I just don't know how. I'm brainstorming though because our voices deserve to be heard. We are not second class citizens, we are not dangerous, and we are capable of so much that people rarely give us credit for. 

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It really ground my gears when I was listening to the news coverage about the girl who rammed her car into the White House barrier and was shot dead eventually, etc. All they could say was, 'the perpetrator suffered from depression and had post-partum depression after the birth of her child.' As if depression is enough or fodder to constitute such actions! I was mortified. Have they got people believing that anyone who's depressed is also violent?

Edited by NeonGhost
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We are not second class citizens, we are not dangerous, and we are capable of so much that people rarely give us credit for.

^^this!!!!!!! Couldn't have said it better.

People are saying we should all be put in homes with others who are mentally unstable. Wtf?!

What's next?! I'm seriously concerned. Ugh.

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Want to combat stigma? Want to change the (false) idea that mental illness/violence are linked? Maybe we should start by calling it something other than "illness."

 

What would you prefer to call it? How would you like to describe it? You aren't exactly offering suggestions for improvement.

 

Bipolar is a brain illness, a disease. It is a medical condition. That's life. Education is the answer, not marketing.

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Want to combat stigma? Want to change the (false) idea that mental illness/violence are linked? Maybe we should start by calling it something other than "illness."

 

What would you prefer to call it? How would you like to describe it? You aren't exactly offering suggestions for improvement.

 

Bipolar is a brain illness, a disease. It is a medical condition. That's life. Education is the answer, not marketing.

 

 

^This^ is extremely important to realize & remember.

 

Bipolar & Schizophrenic illnesses are in fact an illness; and trying to combat stigma with misconception is not a good way to produce awareness.

 

What needs to be done, is education. The main reason for stigma is ignorance. & the only way to combat ignorance is understanding.

 

Do not get me wrong, I completely understand the frustration & am for MI awareness & advocacy. I am one of the first few who replied on the matter in News & Politics thread, where I was outraged the first assumption from a "professional" was either "severe mental illness" or "road rage". Which is just silly, considering no one ever talked to the woman & didn't even know who she was when MSNBC made their "professional hypothesis".

 

However when combating ignorance & unawareness, there is a right & a wrong way to go about it. Because if you go about it the wrong way, people will get even more defensive & stubborn on the subject; which will make them hesitant to even fancy the idea of what they were taught is inaccurate.

 

ETA spelling & grammar

Edited by the girl
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Good discussion.

The one that really got me was the man (I forget the names) who locked the social worker out of the house during a visit with his sons and then killed him. He was suspected of killing his wife as well. They published her journals where she (not a medical professional) said she thought maybe he was bipolar. I was so upset by that, and then I was upset that it bothered me as much as the two children dying. 

I have no idea what to do. I write fiction, so I'm trying to write a story where the hero/ine is bipolar, not where the bipolar person is the one who comes along and f's everything up.

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My big issue with the shooting of the lady in her car with her KID IN THE BACK SEAT is just that, the stupid fuckwits shot at her/her car with a KID IN THE CAR! How bloody irresponsible can you get?!!!! This is far worse than her driving her car trying to ram something or whatever she was doing.  How can you excuse shooting at a car with an innocent child in it???? Fuckwits!!! Too many guns too.  Sorry, I am an Aussie and just don't get the need to bear arms, it has increased violence in society.  There are so many violent crimes with guns involved or suicides because of access to guns.  Really probably shouldn't be ranting about that here but I think that if this happened in Australia there wouldn't be the shoot first, find out the truth/facts later attitude.  Grrrr!!!! Now that poor kid is without a mother, lucky to be alive himself (?was it a boy) - maybe she was crazy, but she was still his mother and maybe if they hadn't been so gun happy there might be a chance of catching her and getting her help?!!

 

Way too much stigma attached to mental illness though, as you rightly pointed out in this thread.  Some people just think we are bad, difficult, temperamental, etc and don't get that our brains are messed up (wiring is stuffed or whatever) and really you could actually call it a neurological disorder, kind of like Asperger's or something along those lines as our brains are or have become differently wired (i.e. fucked up wiring).  Still, the poor Aspies and ADDs, etc cop it also.  Society is ignorant and uncaring for the most part with a dog eat dog mentality - perhaps I need to blog about people sucking again!

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She had used the car as a deadly weapon at least once already. They didn't use deadly force first, she did. It is appropriate for police to respond with deadly force in those situations. I am no fan of the police, believe me. But she was just as likely to kill the kid herself, at that point. You could rant about that with equal justification.

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People with extreme mental illness do commit crimes largely because of their mental illness. Is that under dispute?

Us crazies have the same problem as any other out group, in that people are first suspicious of us, and then find confirmation of their suspiscion where they can. That's probably not going to go away until people see us as people; we have a huge headstart in this because there are so damn many of us spread out through every corner of society (hooray?).

 

Going on a crusade to convince people that the MI are not criminals will just strengthen the connection for people, even if we intend the exact opposite.

 

If there were anything I would do for the cause, it would be to expand coverage. 

 

If there were a group I'd help with being automatically stigmatized as criminals, it would be black men in the USA.

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People with extreme mental illness do commit crimes largely because of their mental illness. Is that under dispute?

Us crazies have the same problem as any other out group, in that people are first suspicious of us, and then find confirmation of their suspiscion where they can. That's probably not going to go away until people see us as people; we have a huge headstart in this because there are so damn many of us spread out through every corner of society (hooray?).

 

Going on a crusade to convince people that the MI are not criminals will just strengthen the connection for people, even if we intend the exact opposite.

 

If there were anything I would do for the cause, it would be to expand coverage. 

 

If there were a group I'd help with being automatically stigmatized as criminals, it would be black men in the USA.

 

Generally speaking, yes, a large percentage of people who are mentally ill, that do commit crimes, do so because of their mental illness. I would hesitate in saying they all do though. I would imagine that for some people the crime they committed had nothing at all to do with being mentally ill. I guess we would have to do a study on that, or find one that's already out there, to get exact figures rather than speculation. 

 

As far as going on a crusade - I don't think that is what I'm proposing. I would simply like to see media coverage of people doing well. That's a human interest story, rather than headline news, and it would unfortunately be overshadowed by the negativity in the press. However, by at least making an effort, I feel that I'm contributing rather than sitting back and lamenting the situation. What is it that people say, "Be the change you want to see"? I can do at least that. 

 

I agree that black males do get profiled automatically. Something needs to be done about that, too. And they are trying, but, just like us, setbacks happen and the media shows us that all black males are thugs. 

 

The answer is education, enlightenment, and treatment. I just wish I had more clout to get something started!

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My understanding regarding the DC story is that

1. they got the baby out of the car

2. then they shot her dead

3. she ran into/ran over a Secret Service Agent

 

I wish they could have tasered her, but really you can't fuck around and run over the Secret Service

 

She had delusions, there were news stories about her delusions

The whole situation is heartbreaking and awful

 

Her family seems to be in denial about the degree of her psychosis

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