Friday, March 8, 2013
Mental Illness as a Civil Rights Issue?
In this day and age any group that faces adversity labels themselves as the hot new “civil rights” issue. In light of recent events, particularly Sandy Hook and the much debated gun control issue, mental illness has been getting a lot of national attention. There has been an outpour of articles on both sides of the issue debating about whether or not mental illness is something that should be funded by governments to aid in treatment and education for the public. The education portion of these programs would be particularly important as their is an incredibly harsh stigma associated with any type of mental illness in the United States. As someone who lives with a mental illness and is fully aware of the stigma associated with it, I can understand where the people advocating for increased funding for education are coming from.
Stigmas arise from the reinforcement of stereotypes-the same way they arose during the original Civil Rights Movement. In the same way that African Americans were stereotyped as lazy and uppity, those with mental illness are described as insane or unstable. But is it really effective to continuously label things as the “modern civil rights movement”? Doing so may create media attention for the issue at hand, but it also undermines and devalues the so-called “original” civil rights movement.
I came across an article on The Huffington Post entitled “Mental Illness as a Civil Rights Issue” that argues for why mental illness should be put up as the true, new, civil rights movement. It highlights the stigmas and how they believe it could best be addressed. I've mentioned in a few of my comments on other posts that often times the promotion of negative stereotypes is either a)done by the members of the stereotypes group themselves or b)so ingrained in our everyday lives that we have lost some of our ability to even notice if we are being feed stereotypes. The promotion of stereotypes used for our own groups advancement has become so commonplace that it seems as American an idea as capitalism. Is it really possible to change our thinking through simple education programs, or do we need to reshape the entire way Americans view each other and other groups? If we only educate the American public about why they shouldn't stigmatize or stereotype a group, they will always find a new group to victimize. The only way to really end civil rights issues is to change the way Americans think.
The article I read is below: