I am going to deviate from the usual subject to dedicate this blog to provide people with a better understanding about the definition of mental illness especially in view of the latest news regarding the violent shootings in schools and other places like a movie theater.
The term mental illness has a very dubious definition. Unfortunately like with religion every one has a different opinion on what it means. People generally think of the mentally ill exclusively as those in treatment on some sort of psychotropic drugs and who have been hospitalized or are in some sort of treatment program. Unfortunately the mental health professionals also feel this way as they feel very comfortable with labeling people.
The problem with this understanding is that it is not really accurate. This is especially the case with the aforementioned news reports. It is no different now then it was in the past. There were news reports of murders by serial killers. And most every one would agree, even myself, that all these people are mentally ill. But here is the point. MOST of these people are FUNCTIONAL. In other words they have a job or go to school. They may well be nice to their neighbors and often seem quite normal.
Those who have lost their loved ones are naturally angry and have an innate need to lash out against others who may fit this description. Like those who generalize that a small number of people in a group who commit a crime then the rest of the group must be suspect.
The truth is most of those in treatment are what I would personally refer to as DISABLED. rather than just ill. Hence they cannot function very well and are the least likely to be a threat to society. There are mentally ill people in this world who are not diagnosed. Many perfectly harmless, others a potential ticking ting time bomb. Being mentally ill or mentally disabled has nothing to with the few who are a danger to society. I often blame a few professionals and a system that does little, even though they may be completely aware that some one exhibits tendencies towards violence who could conceivably be a threat to society.
Another point to realize is that mental illnesses are so diverse. We need to stop using this definition as a catch all phrase to lump a bunch of people into a limited category. A proper understanding of what mental illness really is, helps us to understand that it is a universal problem and not one limited to a few. It affect’s people of all walks of life. Including professionals . They could be your lawyer, your doctor, or a politician and more than likely your therapist. It could be a parent or a guardian. Just think about child and spousal abuse. Is that not considered a mental health issue? Sure you might think they are just very angry people. Every one has some problem with anger. But to be a persistent violent and angry person that is not healthy. Nothing in this world is just black and white, It is rare that there are on one hand perfectly normal people and on the other totally “crazed ” psychopaths. Most people find themselves between the two extremes. It has been said that every one has a skeleton in their closet. Some are just better at hiding it than others. Given the stigma that comes with being labeled mentally ill most people who are at least minimally functional and suffer from a mental illness will prefer to suffer rather then get help. That is why we are all under the misguided impression that mental illness is extremely rare and that only those with an official diagnosis are the ones to look to when thinking about some one who commits a heinous crime. I believe this to be such an important issue that will be writing about this in further blogs.