Anyone else got opinions on this?
I have two posits:
1) People will always always always make movies and stories about crazy* people doing crazy* things. There’s a whole genre for it. It’s called a thriller.
2) Neurotypical? That’s like saying wild-type human. Come on now. You can’t normalize sentient beings, especially on a neurological level. The fact we can manipulate our environment means we are also being equally manipulated by said environment.
*replace crazy with whatever word you wish.
The role of the media in encouraging stigmatizing attitudes towards the mentally ill should not be underestimated - especially comics, which have a high readership of adolescents (an age range at which psychotic symptoms most often first present). Media presentations may shape not only the behaviours of the public but also inadvertently the reactions of the disordered themselves: Link et al (1999) suggest that the very act of perceiving the mentally ill as dangerous translates to fact regardless of contrary evidence because “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”, (Thomas & Thomas, 1928).
Greg et al (1994) analysed UK media content during a one month period and found that two thirds of items dealing with mental health issues forged a link to violence. Two fifths of participants believed mental illness to be associated with violence and cited the media as their source. Some even accepted this view against personal evidence. Not only are violent stereotypes a concern, but also moralistic and demonising interpretations of senseless crimes as indicative of a sinful nature (Corrigan & Watson, 2005).
Consistently maligning the mentally ill as deviant, violent, evil, and determined to overthrow or hurt the ‘good guys’ (i.e. the neurotypical) serves to stigmatise and further alienate the mentally ill from mainstream society. It constructs a culture of shame around mental illness. It deters the mentally ill from seeking help. It pushes them into struggling alone. It is offensive. It is unnecessary.
Why can’t the explanatory narrative surrounding ‘bad guys’ in comics be that they are just bad? Why do they have to be mentally ill? Why can’t more of the good guys (like Starman) be mentally ill? (“The way it’s depicted so often with villains is that the guy is bad because of his mental illness. That mental illness completely defines him, and that’s just not how it is in real life.”)
We should remember that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crimes, and this is no doubt at least partially because media portrayals of them as other, deviant, violent, amoral or evil makes them targets of attacks.
Edify me, #1: Is the gist that it’s no longer okay to make art in which a mentally ill person does bad things? Insanity/mental illness is one of the greatest themes in all of art history, right up there with sex and politics, war being politics by other means. The insane character’s actions are those that the rest of us wish we were capable of, and we are faced with some of our most profound questions when we confront the thin line between sanity and not, between control and not, between living as we are told and not. This article argues that the proliferation of such themes in popular culture will cause us to discriminate against the mentally ill. I must draw the line. To an even slightly critical reader, The Joker, for example, does not represent a threat that all mentally ill people want to commit mass murder. He brings to light the antisocial tendencies we all repress in order to function. We are capable of destruction and we know it. For our entire history, those who act on their darkest impulses are labelled insane in the vernacular of the time. There is, then, precedent for a bias and a fear of the severely mentally ill. Art and media do not reinforce this structure as much as they ask us to question it: Do we commit violence because we are chemically imbalanced, or predisposed, or somehow different from everyone else? Or, shall we admit to ourselves that our desires make us insane, and express these desires, and make ourselves less alone in having them?
Edify me, #2: The word “neurotypical.” I posit that there is no such thing. The above article makes a case for treating mental illness the way we have already decided it is best to treat gender, race, body type, etc.—our culture runs against the grain of who so many of us are or want to be, and so we must oppose depictions and characterizations that enforce false identities. Yes, let’s do that. But our brains don’t belong in quite the same structure, do they? Mental illness is unique among factors because it needs no society to exist; a schizophrenic hallucinates whether she has been labelled or not. What the fuck, exactly, is neurotypical? To answer that, you’d need some counter examples, much like the ones this article argues against. Are we talking about a person who has never felt depressed, or violent, or asocial, or amoral, etc.? Didn’t Freud and the psychological breakthroughs of the twentieth century teach us that we are all insane, and imbalanced, and capable of becoming, at any moment, the mythologized monster?
The monster in this sense is not, is almost never, the Other. If you’re celebrating Halloween tonight, count how many monster costumes represent Others, and how many are more accurately read as a twisted version of the Self.
I will relinquish a lot of themes and satires in the interest of keeping my culture inclusive. The premise in this case is fucking flawed. People are not cruel to the mentally ill because they have been taught that mentally ill people are dangerous or evil. We are cruel because we know how similar we are, because we are afraid to confront the parts of ourselves that are dangerous and evil, because there but for the grace, etc. I have yet to find evidence that Foucault was wrong about anything.
I’m publishing this here for my followers to comment on amongst themselves as, right now, I’m out of spoons.
things we are trying to do all the time:
- be safe
things we can’t help but do all the time:
- second-guess ourselves
- behave impulsively and reactively
- take everything personally
- have difficulty accepting compliments
- have difficulty reciprocating friendly gestures
- have difficulty finding the courage to respond
- have difficulty not being suspicious of others’ intentions
- make a huge deal out of the smallest thing
things you should keep in mind:
- we’re scared of everything
- pretty much all of the time
- it’s an actual disorder
- it manifests as impulsive behavior
- you can’t fix us with words
- telling us “worrying is silly” won’t make us stop worrying
- it’ll only make us feel silly
- and then we’ll worry even more
- “oh god, am i worrying too much? what if they call me silly again?”
- like that
- also, we wear a lot of armor
- cold, heavy, affection-proof armor with spikes
- we constructed this armor as children
- we’re fairly certain you will never be able to pry it apart
- but there is a nice person under there, we promise
things you can do for a friend with an anxiety disorder:
- stick around
- ask them if they’re comfortable in a place or situation
- be willing to change the place or situation if not
- activities that help them take their mind off of things are good!
- talk to them even when they might not talk back
- (they’re probably too afraid to say the wrong thing)
- try not to take their reactions (or lack thereof) personally
- (the way they expresses themself is distorted and bent because of their constant fear)
- (and they knows this)
- give them time to respond to you
- they will obsess over how they are being interpreted
- they will anticipate being judged
- it took me four hours just to type this much
- even though i sound casual
- that’s because i have an anxiety disorder
things you shouldn’t do:
- tell us not to worry
- tell us we’ll be fine
- mistake praise for comfort
- ask us if we are “getting help”
- force us to be social
- force us to do things that trigger us
- “face your fears” doesn’t always work
- because—remember—scared of everything
- in fact, it would be more accurate to say we are scared of the fear itself
emergency action procedure for panic attacks:
- be calm
- be patient
- don’t be condescending
- remind us that we’re not “crazy”
- sit with us
- ask us to tighten and relax our muscles one by one
- remind us that we are breathing
- engage us in a discussion (if we can talk, then we can breathe)
- if we are having trouble breathing, try getting us to exhale slowly
- or breathe through our nose
- or have us put our hands on our stomach to feel each breath
- ask us what needs to change in our environment in order for us to feel safe
- help us change it
- usually, just knowing that we have someone on our side willing to fight our scary monsters with us is enough to calm us down
if you have an anxiety disorder:
- it’s okay.
- even if you worry that it’s not okay.
- it’s still okay. it’s okay to be scared. it’s okay to be scared of being scared.
- you are not crazy. you are not a freak.
- i know there’s a person under all that armor.
- and i know you feel isolated because of it.
- i won’t make you take it off.
- but know that you are not alone.
Have you seen any interesting articles or videos or images online pertaining to mental health, psychology, psychiatry or neuroscience that you’d like to open up discussion about here?
Submit here and we can get talking about them!
Just a heads up, because I’ve been getting a lot of asks lately on the topic: I am not a doctor, and even if I was, it would deeply negligent of me to advise about medications via the internet. I’m sorry but I just can’t help in that capacity.
I won’t publish your question because I can’t put a trigger warning before it.
What terrifies you about antidepressants? What kind of therapy did you try? Therapy is not an instant fix: it won’t work within 2 sessions… it requires perseverance, which I know is hard, but it sounds like you might have a good support system to help?