All in Your Head
“It’s all in your head,” isn’t as false as a statement as some people make it out to be. There’s an unprecedented number of people in this world who have been made to believe that mental illness is not an actual “sickness.” These people contribute to the stigma, either making it hard for people to get help (if they are a politician), or they make mentally ill people ashamed or afraid to get help. The most commonly used arguments are the following: Depression is just extreme sadness, anxiety is just a nervous habit, and bipolar disorder is crazy mood swings. In Thomas Szasz’ writing, “The Myth of Mental Illness 101” he says that “illness refers to a bodily lesion, that is, to a material – structural or functional – abnormality of the body, as a machine.” Meanwhile, the definition of illness is “a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind.” An illness does affect the mind, proving mental illness to be an actual illness. The brain is an organ that works like the rest of the body’s organs, so why should mental illness not be classified as an illness?
Mentalism. Otherwise known as sanism, is a form of discrimination because of a mental condition a person has. Phrases such as, “How can there be something to discriminate if mental illness is all in one’s head?” or “People don’t get discriminated for mental illness, that’s bull.” Discrimination can come in many forms, some not as prominent as others. The definition of Discrimination is, “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things.” Let’s say that there’s a person who had just been discharged from an inpatient facility where they’d been living, working on themselves for the past month. Random people walking along the street know what the building is, and they stare at the former patient. They take their children and direct them other way, they eye the person and their minds go, “this person is crazy.” No, they are not crazy, they just spent a month trying to rehabilitate themselves and find new ways to cope with the issues that life has handed to them. They did not ask for this illness to be served to them like a steak at a steak house, but here they are. Diagnosed and living with this illness that has the potential to kill them. No one discriminates cancer patients for having cancer. It’s something they can’t control, same as mental illness, which is lost in the minds of neuro-typical people.
In an article named, “I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?” Michael Cornwall argues that mental illness is not an illness, but it is madness. Cornwall says he sees people with “mental illness” as “a person who may have various experiences of human emotional suffering which sometimes takes the form of madness.” He makes a strong argument about how “our culture and world is rife with polarizing beliefs,” and goes into detail about how a leader of a peer recovery group had said that full recovery was achievable, so another peer called him a Nazi. He then feared that if a mad person were to hear this, they would believe another holocaust is in the works, and that they would contribute to that. He’s basically saying that a mad person would be triggered by a small event such as that above, and their madness would spiral. Madness used to mean mental illness, yes, but there’s some kind of demeaning meaning behind the word now when referred to that. Ask anyone with a mental illness if they’re “mad” their response would most likely be something along the lines of, “Yes, I’m mad because you asked that question. And no, because I just have a disorder.” Mostly it’s been the entertainment industry that’s responsible for turning madness into a demeaning term. Usually writers or directors instruct the killer in the movie to be considered mad. The Joker, Freddy Kruger, Mike Meyers. All characters that have the potential to be mad. But that’s not the case with the majority of the mentally ill population.
Society has created this so-called stigma against mental illness. The sad fact is that the neuro-typical population believe there cannot be a stigma since mental illness does not exist. Though it does exist. The definition of stigma is, “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” An example of marks of disgrace against mentally ill people is the fact that they are called crazy, unstable, violent, mad, dangerous, or insane. Those kind of words can tear a mentally ill person down more which contributes to their illness, making it even harder for them to find ways to feel better about themselves. It is very hard for people with mental illness to keep jobs. For people with depression, they struggle getting out of bed. Sure, the people are medicated but the medication for mental illness is often slept upon and is very hard for those who need to be treated to get. And even with the medication, the symptoms are not completely gone. It takes years of therapy to get to the point where someone can finally feel okay again, or even well enough to get out of bed. Some stigma’s against the illness is that everyone has these symptoms sometimes, so how can it be specific to someone? Brains are different. They can be compromised, and some people have too much going on in their brain and chemicals are mixed, which can cause an illness.
In conclusion, at the end of the day mental illness is an illness and people need to accept that. Sure, the neuro-typical population is learning to come around, but we as a society still have a long way to go before the stigma ends. There is such a thing as stigma against this illness and it needs to be stopped because if it isn’t then the people who are plagued by this illness will not get the help they need to power through it.
Cornwall, PhD Michael. “I Don’t Believe in Mental Illness, Do You?” Mad In America. N.p., 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.
“Mentalism (discrimination).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Feb. 2017. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.
Wyatt, Randall C. “Thomas Szasz on Freedom and Psychotherapy.” Thomas Szasz Interview. N.p., 2001. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.
Let’s break down the logic here, NoBinary. Your goal is a proof that mental illness is an illness. It seems unnecessary, but since not everybody is convinced, you want to dispel the myths. So far so good.
1. Szasz says: “ILLNESS [is] a lesion . . . a structural . . . abnormality of the body.”
2. An unnamed source says: “ILLNESS IS a disease or period of sickness.”
You try to use these two claims to conclude that:
3. “Illness does affect the mind, proving mental illness [is an] actual illness . . . [BECAUSE] the brain is an organ.”
The logic fails on a couple of counts. To succeed, it would need to say:
1. Illness is a structural abnormality of a body part.
2. Bipolar disorder results from a structural abnormality of the brain.
3. Therefore, bipolar disorder is an illness.
But your version says:
1. Illness is a structural abnormality of a body part.
2. Illness IS ALSO a period of sickness.
3. Therefore, whatever affects a body part must be an illness.
I don’t dispute your conclusion, and I’m not arguing against the reality of mental illness, but you haven’t provided anything here that would refute the dismissive claim that depression is indistinguishable from extreme laziness. You get yourself in trouble by insisting on a structural abnormality and then not demonstrating it as a precondition of mental illness.
Suppose I were to suggest that infinitesimal changes to body chemistry or hormone balance could create overwhelming debility?
1. The brain could be sound (not structurally abnormal)
2. The body might be helpless to counter the laws of chemistry.
3. The mind—which manifests chemical activity in the physical brain—would automatically reflect the chemical imbalance.
4. The illness would physical (a simple matter of brain chemistry) but the symptoms would be behavioral.
An analogy. Suppose I dosed your breakfast burrito every day with LSD. You might see snakes in your professor’s eyes; you might be called crazy; but you wouldn’t be to blame for the physical condition (altered body chemistry) that caused you to run screaming from the classroom. But neither would your condition require a structural brain abnormality. There would, however, be a reasonable physical explanation.
Is that helpful?