In the past, mental illnesses were not widely accepted in society. Many times, upon the discovery of a mental illness in a child, the parents would send them to a mental institution to take care of them. Because of this, people with mental illnesses were often looked down upon due to the public’s unfamiliarity with them. Society’s ignorance has minimized over the years. The social views over the past 30 years have changed considerably towards people with mental disabilities due to socialization, by being involved in valued roles in society, and the evolution of medicine.
The socialization of people with mental illnesses changed society’s way of thinking. The closures of mental institutions have contributed greatly to this. Sending a child with a mental illness to a mental institution to be raised, isolated them from society. By not being exposed to people that are different, it is difficult to widely accept and understand those differences. The more one is exposed to something, the more desensitized they are to it. For example, studies show that the more exposure to violence through the media and video games, the more desensitized the consumers are to the violence in real-life situations (Science Daily).
Many times in society, one sees someone with a mental illness working in places that give them seemingly meaningless roles within that workplace (i. e. Jobs that do not contribute to society). By eliminating those meaningless jobs, people with mental illnesses have the opportunity to work among those without a mental illness. It will therefore increase contact, consequently increasing familiarization. The media has contributed greatly towards providing knowledge to the public about mental illnesses such as depression, autism, and bipolar disorder.
By educating the public, it will cause less apprehension and misunderstanding of people with mental disorders. Marsha Gray of Community Living Mississauga points out that, “One of the things I find that is very bothersome is when people treat them like babies, like they can’t handle themselves. ” This treatment is often a result of ignorance and often demeans the person whom they are speaking. It implies to them that people with a mental illness is unable to take care of themselves.
Participation in meaningful activities that people without mental disabilities participate will increase the social skills that people with certain mental illnesses often lack. To build intimate relationships, for example, provides a chance to develop better self- esteem, and self-awareness that many people without a mental illness often take for granted as it develops naturally earlier on in life. As explained by Marsha Gray, “A social stigma is that people with mental illnesses cannot have a boyfriend/girlfriend or get married and have kids.
It is encouraged to be engaged in those social settings to strengthen the social skills that they may not have had fully developed or may still need to learn. ” The teaching of social norms is essential to the changing of society’s views. In the case of Autism, which is a “disorder that severely impairs development of a person’s ability to communicate, interact with other people, and maintain normal contact with the outside world,” there is the incapability to be aware of the needs and feelings of others. This may result in social deviancy.
Social deviance is any behaviour that is different from the societal norm. With the incapability to be aware of the needs and feelings of others, people with autism may act in a way or do something that may offend others without realizing the consequences. This creates a stereotype that all people with a mental illness are never able to act according to social norms. This view can be changed by teaching what is right and wrong according to the social norms to prevent intolerance. There are certain valued roles in society that everybody plays.
There is a stigma that people with mental illnesses cannot carry on the role as a parent, or as an employer. The evolution of medicine has played a large part in changing the views of society. The introduction of Lithium as a mood stabilizer for patients with bi-polar disorder was a medical breakthrough (NIMH). Because of this, people who are affected by bi-polar disorder are able to live a better, productive life in society with less extreme mood swings between mania and severe depression. In the past, electric shock treatment was commonly used to treat mental illnesses such as severe depression, and epilepsy.
With new advancements in medicine, people with mental disorders are able to function better, and live lives that are more productive and fulfilling. With socialization, which is a result of closing down mental institutions, eliminating meaningless roles, and educating society, the views of the public have changed for the better because the increase of awareness and more exposure to those with mental illnesses.
By providing centres that help teach people with mental illnesses basic life skills and how to act in ociety, it is getting easier for them to live their lives without constant scrutiny for the people around them. By creating ways for people with mental illnesses to be integrated and treated fairly has opened societies eyes and help society be more welcoming to those who are different and decreasing discrimination. The change of social views on mental illnesses have changed for the better, and will continue to do so because they see that all people affect by a mental illness want is to be no different than the normal John Doe, and to be treated as such.
Courtney from Study Moose
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