This is How We’re Making Mental Illnesses Worse

03/16/16 ·

Did you know that emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking? Or that baby monkeys removed from their mothers during critical early months experienced changes in genes affecting the immune system? Did you know that rats when in isolation given only the choice between regular water and cocaine laced water always choose the cocaine water? However, rats put in a cage with other rat friends and activities almost never choose the cocaine laced water.

The Stigma We’ve Created

The problem we face as a society is that we are stigmatizing mental illness. Stigma is the disgrace or shame a person feels about their particular condition. In the case of mental illness this condition is not something a person can control. Millions of people suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, and other common mental illnesses. Unfortunately the current shunning of these mental diseases keeps many who need help in the dark. So why is the current outlook on mental illness so hostile?

Mental Illness in Society

It could be that the we don’t fully understand it. The media portrays the mentally ill as maniac killers. The truth is that there is barely any correlation between crime and mental illness. A recent study shows that crimes committed by those with mental disorders only 7.5% were a result of their actual mental disorder. Yet those suffering from mental illness are 10 times more likely to be in prison than in a psychiatric facility. One in four people saw depression as a sign of weakness and would not employ someone suffering from it. A question like that can be pushed even further, ask yourself, would you vote for a politician running for President of the United States who openly suffered from anxiety or depression?

Justifications can be made to answer the question above truthfully. However, mental illness needs to be a socially accepted issue. If a person continues to hide their depression or anxiety without seeking help from friends, family, or a professional the illness will only get worse. Similarly to the story about the rats and their cocaine water we too need to maintain happy lives with meaningful relationships. Isolation from others will only magnify depression. Like the rats, without relationships we will try to replace them with substances like alcohol and drugs. Depression can make a person who is surrounded by loving people feel completely alone. One in five people with depression won’t tell anyone about it. Hopefully by eliminating this stigma everyone with depression can talk openly about their battle.

How We Can Fix This

What we need as a society is a more open-minded platform to discuss mental illnesses. With such a platform we can help those suffering and gain a deeper understanding as to why mental illness occurs and what we can do to prevent it. We need to begin to share information and research about mental illness. We should voice concern when false beliefs are stated and avoid discriminating against anyone solely because of their mental condition. Finally, we should discuss our own experiences with mental illness in order to promote discussion with those around us.

Sources: MentalHealth.Gov, Ted Talk [Mental Illness],,