Mental illness is a health care problem that is common among thousands of individuals in the US. According to a study conducted by Fazel and Grann (2006), they found that one in four individuals in the society suffer from mental health problem. One among ten children is affected by the same condition while depression affects the largest population in the nation. There are about 450 million individuals across the world suffering from mental health problem. Based on this study, it is evident that in one way or another, if a person is not suffering from mental health problem, they are affected by it because of their family, relative or friend. However, the main issue regarding mental illness concerns people’s thought of the infected individuals. There are certain myths that have been set concerning people with mental health problems which have led to strong social discrimination and stigmatization. Many people have a belief that those suffering from mental illness are dangerous and violent, a perception that is not true. According to Comer (2012), each and every society has a way in which they judge abnormality and this is based on their culture, values, habits, history, arts, and technology. A society that has strong values for gentleness and cooperation would not consider aggressive behavior and abnormality as part of their culture. Nevertheless, regardless of the fact that most people in the society may view a violent or dangerous person as having abnormal psychological functioning; research has it that this is just an exception and not the rule (Comer, 2012).
Regardless of this, majority of people suffering from mental illness are less likely to find work, live in houses that are decent, be included socially, and be in a relationship that is stable and long-lasting. It depicts the manner in which society has stereotyped and discriminated these kinds of individuals not knowing that it affects them or makes their condition worse. The truth is that discrimination and stigma has the potential to worsen the condition of people suffering from mental health problems. It can delay their getting treatment, recovery process and finding help instead they end up suffering from several illnesses as result of rejection and bad attitude towards them.
The media has been on the front in influencing and shaping the ways in which people behave, acknowledge, and treat individuals with mental illness. Most of the time, it has misinformed the public by depicting them as people who are violet, evil, disabled, criminals, and dangerous. There are cases whereby they have been shown as people not capable of living a life that is fulfilled or normal. All these bad reports not only lead to more discrimination but also affect the entire population suffering from mental illness. They begin to think that they are similar to individuals being revealed in the news or TV film.
However, the media can be dangerous especially as shown in the previous shootings that has taken place in schools. The case of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who killed students in Columbia has been copied by many people especially by other students such as Cho who considered them as martyrs. It means that by exposing the story and giving it full attention, it ends up raising esteem of other individuals with similar evil thoughts. It is the reason there has been constant mass killings in schools by students who are suffering from different mental health problems. School shooters have considered Harris and Klebold as their heroes and in most cases used similar weapons and strategy as them.
It is important to understand the mental state of an individual when they behave in a certain way. It is wrong to judge or come to a conclusion that any individual who is violent or dangerous is mentally ill like the media has been reporting. Research has it that only two percent of the total gun crimes experienced in the nation were attributed by mental illnesses. It is therefore important to look into the truth before portraying everyone with mental illness as dangerous or violet people.
A case study of mental illness reported by the media
It is important to understand that there are various types of mental health problems with each having different symptoms and characteristics. There is suicide, eating disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, identity disorder, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, somatization disorder, and psychotic disorder among many others. In this case study, the main focus is on bipolar disorder which was reported in NBC Newspaper early this year in May.
According to the newspaper, a young woman known as Linda Bishop who was suffering from bipolar disorder allowed herself to starve to death. Some of the characteristics of this mental illness that are mentioned are delusional and mood swings. Based on a study that was conducted on her case, Bishop was a disturbed person and her emotional state was not stable. It was considered that the disturbances might have been caused by depression. These problems were also accompanied by other issues such as loose of appetite and low level of activity (NBC News, 2016). Her situation continued to worsen resulting into her moving to an abandoned warehouse where she starved herself to death.
Bipolar disease is characterized by alternative moods whereby at one particular time an individual is perfectly fine and the next time they are having manic episodes. Most of the time, they experience severe depression which leads to emotional cycle that is unpredictable. Hallucination and nonsense talking is also a characteristics possessed by individuals with bipolar disorder. It is evident that Bishop had strong emotional cycles and this is evident by the diaries that she left behind. One can assume that during the times when she had unusual energy and ambitions which drove her to write the diaries. She could have also experienced normal episodes translated as the period when she decided to move to the abandoned farmhouse, a place Bishop knew that no one could find her (NBC News, 2016).
Critique of the story
The information presented by NBC Newspaper is correct especially the description they have given regarding Bishop’s condition. Delusional is a major characteristic possessed by people suffering from bipolar disorder. On the other hand, being disorganized is also true information presented by the media. In this case, the fact that Bishop chose to stay in a warehouse that was abandoned depicts that she had disorganized thoughts.
In terms of objectivity, this article has attained its purpose which is to raise concern regarding mental illness and self-harm. The other objective of the author could have been to address the issue regarding the failing and cracked health care system in the nation. It is the reason the reporter, Jedd Wider mentioned in the newspaper that thousands of American families have to face similar situations on a daily basis (NBC News, 2016). The news is not only terrible, but also scary. Yes, it marginalizes the mentally ill population particularly the poor treatment they receive in the mental institutions. However, the story has been written in a way that may scare people away and fear the institutions set for helping mental problems. It is evident in the newspaper that most of the social workers and care givers in the institutions do not care about the well-being of the patients. It could have been the contributing factor to Bishop’s escape to the abandoned houses. Wider has mentioned that it was right for her to escape and go die alone (NBC News, 2016). However, the issue of free will and free mind also played an important part in the failure of the organization for letting her go.
According to Comer (2012), in every stage of development, there are pressures that require individuals suffering from mental illness to adhere to various events. If they find that this is not possible, they end up living in a world of fixation. This is always the initial stage of early development of the sickness that eventually leads to psychological abnormality. In the case of Bishop, she was living in a fixation world where she saw the Chinese mafia stalking her (NBC News, 2016). It is at this point that she became unbearable because of her delusions making it hard for her sister to connect with her emotionally. On the other hand, when Bishop realized that she could not stay in the institution, she decided to adhere to her pressures causing her to run away.
The author of the article also wanted to raise awareness regarding the capacity of the mentally ill individuals especially those with severe cases. The motive was to make people think about whether they should be given the free will to do what they want and make their choices, or be controlled. The issue of force could have applied in this case, but the doctors instead decided to allow the patient exercise free will something that can be considered as negligence because Bishop was not in her right mind.
The issue of family involvement in decision making has also been raised in this particular article. Bishop had refused medication but her sister’s statement shows that the family was not given room to actively get involved in her treatment. It is the reason Joan Bishop mentioned that her sister could have been alive today in case the family was involved (NBC News, 2016). She compared the mental institution to warehouses where individuals with mental disorders were locked up without allowing anyone to see them. However, this information provides a negative view that leads to marginalization of mental institutions though not all have cases of negligence or poor treatment of patients. By mentioning the case of President J. F Kennedy and comparing it to Bishop’s case can be considered as discriminatory.
However, not all the information in the article is biased. There is much important information in the story that is helpful, kind and compassionate which promote positive view regarding mental health problems. According to the story, Bishop was a normal woman who lived her life perfectly. She had a child under her care before her condition worsened. It shows that the article was trying to depict individuals with mental illness to be like other normal human beings who are capable of raising a family. They should not therefore be discriminated against because of their health and denied the most important things in life such as family.
On the other hand, according to NBC, Bishop was well educated and she is described as a woman with strong charisma (NBC News, 2016). This is a statement that rules out the idea that most people have regarding mentally ill individuals not being able to live a complete and normal life. Bishop was not a violent woman despite her illness, she only harmed herself by not eating but the article did not show any signs of violence in her.
The news regarding changes and transformation that has taken place in the nation that seeks to make the mental health institutions better is helpful to many mentally ill individuals who are thinking of joining these organizations for help. According to the author, the government is allowing more family involvement in the mental institutions as a way to help their loved ones get better/recover (NBC News, 2016). It is also a way the media is showing how the government is trying to solve the problems that have existed within the health care system.
Ways in which the texts enhance the story
The media has been focusing on the negative characteristics of certain ill individuals whom their conditions led them to commit a crime such as murder. Personalizing on one or two account is not correct because not everyone suffering from mental disorder is violent. The abnormal symptoms possessed by few of the individuals with mental problems are as a result of the conflicting forces that are within them (Comer 2012). The behaviors of persons with mental illness whether they are abnormal or normal are mainly determined by the underlying interaction and psychological forces. These characteristics might have been the reason Bishop suddenly decided that she did not want care from her sister and the mental institution and decided to run away to an abandoned house. The abnormal and unconscious forces that might have led Bishop to a life of solitude could have been contributed by forces guided by pleasure principles such as impulses and instinctual needs. On the other hand, reality principles of defense mechanisms as a way to protect her from the environment she was in could have also contributed to her escape.
The graphical depictions of some films make people fear individuals who are mentally ill. Unlike some media, the film mentioned in NBC newspaper shows a different kind of case study basing the events on what happened in real life and a clear depiction of the condition. It is high time that the public and the media start having a positive attitude towards individuals such as Bishop as a way to help them in their recovery process. It is the only way to have a “safe” society because there will be less people who are mentally disturbed.
Some factors such as substance abuse and social class are closely linked to the violent behaviors of particular individuals who are mentally ill. Studies and media that connect violence and danger to mental illness are therefore suffering from classified biasness. Comer has mentioned that there is a need to understand the abnormal functioning of individuals who have various disorders. The cognitive processes such as the ways in which they think, behave and their emotions can tell you that something is wrong and seek attention before their condition becomes worse leading to aggressiveness (Comer, 2012). When Bishop began to have delusional thoughts of Chinese mafia stalking her, the sister knew that she needed professional help. Joan knew that therapy would help in recognizing and restructuring her thinking. Therapy would enable her become sober again even though this never happened because of the poor health care system in the psychiatric hospital where she was taken.
Some factual information that could enhance the story is regarding the treatment method that was applied on Bishop. Comer has discussed several treatment theories that have helped individuals suffering from various mental health problems. Behavioral therapies, cognitive therapies, psychodynamic therapies, and spiritual interventions have helped improve the condition of the people suffering from mental illness (Stoll, Renshaw, Yurgelun-Todd, & Cohen, 2000).