A Link Between Mental Illness and Homelessness

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Crazy. This word by itself carries enough stigma to alienate the entire population of those with a mental illness. People regularly use this word to describe completely sane individuals who act out in a way that seems odd from time to time. The definition of crazy, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, is “ mentally ill.” It does not make any sense to call people without a mental illness crazy because it simply isn’t true. Although this is one reason why calling someone crazy is harming society, another reason is that it creates a stigma on those who have a mental illness. These people do not need any more discrimination, instead, they need support and to be understood more than they currently are. Mental illness is feared, stigmatized, and misunderstood, but it doesn’t need to be. Instead, people need to try to bring awareness to mental illness and get society to understand what it is and what the harmful effects are that are inflicted on those with an affliction.

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Many people tend to look towards those with a mental illness in the light that they are all dangerous. Many people assume that every person who has a mental health condition is violent and prone to attacks. This is not the case, nor is it close to the truth. Yes, Some mental illnesses can make people act out in ways that might harm others but these illnesses are more likely to cause the affiliated person more damage. According to Violence and Mental Illness, “Approximately twenty percent of violent psychotic patients are motivated directly by their delusions or hallucinations.” This quote suggests that if any mental illness has a slightly stronger link to violence, then it is psychotic disorders. Psychotic Disorders are mental illnesses that cause a loss of touch with reality. An example of this would be Schizophrenia. On the other hand, according to the same source, “Most patients with stable mental illnesses do not present an increased risk of violence.” This separate quote suggests that most people who are receiving treatment for their illness do not pose a threat to others. Mental illness is a condition that cannot be completely cured, much like a physical illness such as Psoriasis. A final quote by Psychology Today states, “Studies have shown that the majority of individuals with a diagnosable mental illness are not violent towards others but are more likely to take their own lives as a means to end their own emotional and mental suffering.” This last quote states that those with a mental illness have more self-hatred, causing them to hurt themselves more than others. Through these three different quotes, they all support the idea that most individuals with a mental illness are less likely to harm others than people seem to believe. They also suggest that those with a mental illness are more likely to inflict pain upon themselves because of their underlying guilt and shame.

Mental illness can cause internal pain as well as external pain. The internal pain is far less visible to society than the external pain. Another type of pain inflicted upon those with one of the many different illnesses is a stigma. Stigma is discrimination against a person or group of people because of certain characteristics. Those with mental illnesses are discriminated against daily. This stigma against them harms their financial situation, their social life, and their mental health. Many people discriminate against those with a mental illness because they do not understand why the person is acting the way they are or they do not understand the illness itself. Discrimination can come from many different people and recently the President of the United States of America said that those who committed a mass shooting are “mentally ill monsters and he suggests involuntary confinement for some people with mental health disorders.” This quote shows how one of the most influential people of today can discriminate against those with a mental illness by claiming that everybody who has committed a shooting is mentally ill and that anybody who has a mental illness will commit a mass shooting. This quote by the president is very inaccurate as “The American Psychological Association (APA), the largest professional and scientific organization of psychologists in the United States, has stated over and over again that it is important for individuals to understand that there is a very weak link between mass shootings and mental illness.”  In fact, less than one percent of those who committed a homicide with a gun had a major mental illness, such as Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia. There is also evidence that suggests that “Underlying hate combined with easy access to firearms and the constant exposure to violence all make up a recipe for disaster”.These quotes help to demonstrate that mental illness is nowhere near the main cause of mass shootings. The prevailing cause of these dreadfully, damaging shooting is the bigotry and firearms that people already own and have towards certain groups. As stated in the previous paragraph, certain mental illnesses are more likely to make the afflicted person violent towards others, but there are many mental illnesses that cause more harm to the individual.

People tend to relate the mentally ill with those that have committed mass shootings. However, there is another problem that those with a mental illness face. This problem is homelessness. There are about 564,708 people homeless every night. In fact, “140,000 or 25 percent of these people were seriously mentally ill, and 250,000 or 45 percent had any mental illness.” This observation suggests a link between mental illness and homelessness. There are many reasons why there might be a link between the two. One reason is that those who are mentally ill may not want others to know that they have their condition. Therefore, they will continue to suffer in silence and without treatment leading to a worsening of their conditions. According to an article by the High Watch Recovery Center, “Most people struggling with mental illness are in a less secure position.”(Why don’t people 1) This quote is referring to how Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently spoke out about his depression. Dwayne’s depression is as serious as other people’s depression but he didn’t have a lot to lose when he spoke out about it. Other people are not as wealthy or well known as him, so they may be more worried about how it will affect their financial situation. Homelessness is a difficult way to live, therefore it can make the individual with a mental illness even more stressed and cause their symptoms to get even more severe. It is important to bring awareness to mental illness and why homelessness is an even bigger issue for those dealing with one of the many mental disorders.

There is an astounding number of mental illnesses. Many people overlook certain illnesses when they think of the word “mental illness”. Schizophrenia is one of the illnesses that people seem to repeatedly deem “bad” or “unsafe.” This is most likely because Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that is “characterized by hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech, and disorganized or catatonic behavior.” Those with Schizophrenia tend to have a very difficult time holding a stable job and keeping up with day to day tasks. The psychosis that plays a major part in this disorder is what seems to make people fear this illness. The psychosis makes the individual believe things that aren’t true or see things that aren’t there. For example, someone with Schizophrenia may believe that their neighbor is out to get them, making them nervous and more likely to lash out towards their neighbor. Another mental illness called Bipolar Disorder is commonly joked about but also misunderstood. Bipolar disorder causes extreme mood swings that affect “mood, energy and the ability to think clearly.” Many people find this illness confusing because they misunderstand the difference between normal mood swings and mood swings that are mania and depression. People tend to see people with Bipolar as impulsive. In other words, they see them as more likely to attack or harm them out of nowhere. One more mental illness that is very misunderstood is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, commonly called OCD. This illness is an example of a mental disorder where there is very little chance of the individual becoming violent towards another human being. This is because OCD is an illness where the person has unwanted and ceaseless urges to do an action. An example of someone with OCD would be somebody who constantly feels the urge to wash their hands. Yes, it is true that some people are germaphobes and do this too but that is a phobia, not OCD. OCD is even more intense to the point where the person does not know why they are washing their hands but they may wash them up to two hundred times daily. There are many mental illnesses and many of them severely affect the person with the disorder but that does not mean that they are a danger to society. As stated many times, they are more likely to cause more difficulties in their own lives and have more trouble staying stable.

People commonly fear those with mental illnesses because it is something that they do not understand. This misunderstanding can be stopped though, or at least diminished. If people begin to try and learn about the different mental illnesses that there are, then the stigma that surrounds those with a mental disorder will slowly lessen and become less severe. Many people stigmatize those with a mental illness, even going as far as blaming them for mass shootings, such as the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Though some illness may make people seem more violent, many illnesses cause the individual internal, self-directed violence and pain. Overall, society needs to do a better job at attempting to understand the mental illnesses that plaque a great amount of the population because if everybody was to try and learn about these illnesses, the stigma would lessen and the individuals who have mental illnesses could live with less stress and more acceptance.                

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