Ignorance Around Mental Illness

Jay Park, Staff Writer

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“Most people, if you live in a big city, you see some form of schizophrenia every day, and it’s always in the form of someone homeless. ‘Look at that guy – he’s crazy. He looks dangerous.’ Well, he’s on the streets because of mental illness. He probably had a job and a home.” -anonymous

   To us high schoolers, the word “mentally ill” brings up images of crazed homeless people that you make sure to steer away from. When we first encountered them, it may have piqued our curiosity into wondering why they were living as they are. As time went by, we view them as different people we do not involve ourselves with. This is not what should be. They are as human as we are, but we treat them like a hopeless case.

   Society provides roadblocks such as necessitating high-level education in order to apply to jobs, but does not help those who are struggling to adapt to this environment. Mentally ill and mentally disordered people have a different state of mind, and perceive the world differently than we do. Due to this difference, they take a longer time to learn and may appear “slow.”

   Under this pretense, society allows the mentally ill to choose their own path, whereas that could lead to troublesome scenarios, both for society and the person him or herself. They are given special education during childhood, then are hardly cared for, and become basically abandoned by society. Yet, they are human beings like us, and are guaranteed basic human rights. We need to view them as the same as us and associate with them as such.

   This is not right. At this point, they are treated the same as everybody else, but they need more help. Studies show that one out of four Americans adults experience mental illness, and one in seventeen people (13.6 million [National Alliance on Mentally Ill]) are diagnosed with severe cases. A majority of these people are incapable of pursuing a normal life without guidance. Instead, due to mistakes, these people end in prison, become homeless, or fall victim to hatred or misunderstandings.

I am not saying that mentally ill people all end up on the streets or abuse drugs, but the number of mentally ill among the homeless have become so large, that they have become the image for mentally ill people, which is not true.

   Prison cases are often caused by substance abuse, due to its cheap cost in dealing with depression or schizophrenia. Addiction leads into more conflicts with the police and eventually imprisoned. One-fourth of prisoners in America are mentally ill people (National Association on Mental Illness. Prisons were designed to house people that committed crimes, not those who were born mentally ill, but this is the case, like during the reformation movements during the early 1800’s. During this time, Dorothea Dix led a movement to make prisons more humane and differentiate the prisoners from the mentally ill. Yet, the asylums that are constructed have been overshadowed by convenience of local prisons.

   The other problem lies in homelessness. Forty four million people classified as mentally ill are homeless in America at any given point (National Institute of Mental Health), a fourth of the homeless population.

   Conflict arises as the those substance abusers and homeless come in contact with their environment. As a result, these people are taken to jail, but the solution shouldn’t be this way.  Asylums were created to allow the mentally ill to be distinguished from those who committed a crime. Our perspective has blurred to the point that we believe these people have made these mistakes, whereas they couldn’t help it. These people grow up in an environment where they do not know any better. I am not referring them as uneducated children, but the situations they are in make it very convenient for them to fall victim to the temptation of drugs and scams.

   Society develops a negative perspective toward the mentally ill this way, and we isolate ourselves or these people from us, widening the misunderstanding. Mentally ill people must be cared for a longer time, and further education to help these people to achieve success, which is an opportunity everybody deserves.

   As of the moment, many non-government organizations are aiding these people, but I believe things could improve faster if the government could enforce laws to help the mentally ill. Government should also attempt to change the people’s mentality on the mentally ill by improving their living conditions.

   If you watched West Ranch Television on Wednesday (20th), you saw different example of how most homeless in LA. One out of every four homeless people suffer from mental illness, and they could definitely use a helping hand. You should make a conscious effort to involve yourself with these people.

   They are everyday people suffering hardships, and will definitely be thankful of any outside help they receive. Maybe after helping them, you will realize how differently people think of the mentally ill than those who have seen how they live and how they got there.

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