Public opinion polls consistently find that a majority of people in this country believe that people with mental health problems are more likely to commit violent crimes. For example, one national survey found that 60% of Americans thought people with schizophrenia were likely to act violently toward someone else, while 32% thought that people with major depression were likely to do so.
Scientific research suggests that this public opinion does not reflect reality. The results of several recent large research projects conclude that only a weak connection between mental health problems and violence exists in the community. In fact, research has shown that the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental health problems.
Did you know that people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than people who commit violent crimes?
A recent study by researchers at North Carolina State University and Duke University has found that people with serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are much more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population.
Mistaken beliefs about mental health problems and violence lead to widespread stigma and discrimination
The general public usually hears about mental health problems through the news media or the movies. Unfortunately, the media often portrays people with mental health conditions as unpredictable, violent, and dangerous. This portrayal continues to support negative attitudes, prejudice, and feelings of discrimination against people who have mental illness.
As a result, Americans are hesitant to interact with people who have mental health problems. Many people are unwilling to be friends with someone having mental health difficulties. Even more people do not want someone who has schizophrenia as a close co-worker or are unwilling to have someone with depression marry into their family.
What can the public do to help?
Studies show that people with mental health problems do get better. Millions of people completely recover and lead happy, healthy and productive lives. People can often benefit from medication, rehabilitation, talk therapy, self help or a combination of these. One of the most important factors in recovery is the understanding, acceptance and support of family and friends.
You can make a difference in the way people view mental health problems
- Learn more about mental illness and share the facts with people you know
- Speak up if you hear or read something that isn’t true
- Treat people with mental health needs with respect and dignity, as you would anybody else or as you would want to be treated
- Don’t label people by their condition. Instead of saying “She’s a schizophrenic,” say “She has schizophrenia.”
- Respect the rights of people with mental health conditions and don’t discriminate against them when it comes to housing, employment, or education
- Teach children about mental health
Here’s what San Mateo County is doing to help
Reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with mental health problems are critical in helping people recover. Learn more about San Mateo County’s Anti-Stigma Initiative and take the pledge to help fight the stigma!
Reposted with permission. Originally posted on http://smchealth.org/