Importance of the Topic
Even with numerous and extensive studies having been carried out on the topic, a range of aspects of mental disorders remain a mystery for psychiatrists (McGinty, Webster, Jarlenski, & Barry, 2014). The presence of unexplained symptoms and individual reactions to a particular change in one’s mental health leads to an array of challenges for psychiatrists and their patients to overcome. Furthermore, the lack of clear, substantial, and exhaustive explanations about the nature of mental health issues leads to the creation of numerous myths about the potential danger of people with mental health complications (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). Because of the lack of understanding of mental illnesses, most people tend to fear and, thus, ostracize patients with mental health problems.
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Although recent violent shootings made people assume that patients with mental health disorders are more aggressive than others, the specified myth has little to do with reality. While patients with mental health issues are more prone to feeling desperate, confused, and frightened than any other demographics, they cannot be characterized as more violent on average than people that do not have mental health disorders. The identified myth is extremely harmful to the successful treatment of mental disorders and the further integration of patients in the society since it leads to their alienation from the community (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). Therefore, raising awareness levels regarding the subject matter must be deemed as an essential step toward providing patients with mental health concerns with a chance to become a part of their community and, thus, avoid being ostracized severely.
Mental Illnesses and Their Relation to Danger
Mental health issues have always been viewed as something that the rest of the community members consider dangerous (McGinty et al., 2014). As a result, the tendency to ostracize people with mental health problems has a very long history. However, with the recent mass shootings and how media framed these tragic events, the need to discuss the ostensible connection between violence and mental health emerged (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). To prove that the myth about violence as the primary characteristic of people with mental disorders is entirely false, one must take retrospect into the events that caused the identified assumption to become so common.
How the identified tragic events were represented in media should also be regarded as one of the key factors defining the creation of the myth. Furthermore, false statements regarding the origin of violence and an ostensible connection between mass shootings and health concerns were also made by President Trump, thus, fueling the debate and making people even warier of the issue (Trump, 2017). The identified allegations made the process of catering to the needs of patients with mental problems much more difficult since the fear that the identified assumptions caused led to a significant drop in the community support provided to people with mental impairments (McGinty et al., 2014). Therefore, there is a tendency in modern media to frame mental illness as one of the leading causes of the increase in the instances of gun violence, especially in the United States. How media covered the problem could be characterized by a very heavy lean toward portraying people with serious mental issues as potential criminals that are prone to aggressive and violent behaviors.
Psychopathology and Violent Crimes: Connection
Studies show that there is a connection between psychopathology and violence (McGinty et al., 2014). Psychopathology may serve as a predictor of offensive behaviors since numerous analyses indicated its efficacy (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). Therefore, denying the possibility of a person with mental health issues to commit a violent crime would be a mistake (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). The evidence supporting the claim of psychopathy serving as a factor defining the probability of a violent crime can hardly be denied. However, one must keep in mind that psychopathy is a specific mental condition and that psychopathic patients do not represent the entirety of people with mental illnesses. In fact, the etiology of psychopathy, as a mental issue, has been discussed extensively, with numerous studies pointing to the fact that it cannot be compared to the rest of mental disorders (Baskin-Sommers et al., 2016). Similarly, it has been proven that the behaviors displayed by psychopaths cannot be regarded as representative of all people with mental conditions.
Thus, it could be assumed that there are certain types of mental health issues that imply the possibility of violence more than other mental health disorders do. Psychopathology is, perhaps, the most graphic example thereof. Apart from the specified issue, schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder can be named as the health issues that can be characterized by sudden outbursts of violence from the people that have developed the specified mental conditions (O’Reilly et al., 2015). In fact, research shows that victimization as the process that is, unfortunately, linked currently to the process of developing mental health disorders, plays a significant part in the development of violent tendencies among patients. The specified observation includes issues such as substance abuse, the presence of psychopathic traits, and unstable living conditions (Sadeh, Binder, & McNiel, 2014). Therefore, it could be argued that, when occurring in people with mental issues, violence can be regarded as a combination of disorder-related and social factors. Violence, consequently, can be explained as an exaggerated reaction toward the neglect and fear that the rest of the society shows for people with a mental health condition.
Because of the lack of predictability by which changes in the behaviors of patients with mental health concerns can be characterized, all mental disorders are immediately related to danger, which can be viewed as a graphic example of a misinterpretation of the available evidence (Sadeh et al., 2014). As stressed above, certain mental concerns, such as psychopathy, imply a possibility of violent behaviors and, therefore, need to be addressed accordingly. However, an analysis of psychopathy, including its origin and place in the current taxonomy of mental conditions, does not allow ranking it among mental disorders (Sadeh et al., 2014). Thus, assuming that all people with mental conditions are immediately dangerous to the well-being of the rest of society would be a mistake.
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In fact, the violence that peoples with mental health problems display is usually self-directed since people with mental health problems have the propensity toward harming themselves as opposed to others (Dodge et al., 2014). Furthermore, the introduction of appropriate interventions is bound to have a significantly positive effect on people with psychopathic issues, reducing their propensity toward violence and aggressive behavior development. According to the results of the study, by using strategies for enhancing social competencies among children with psychopathy, one could reduce their willingness to display aggression toward other people (Dodge et al., 2014). The identified interventions contribute to a significant change in patients that are prone to substance abuse, criminal behaviors, and sexual misconduct (Dodge et al., 2014). Therefore, it should be borne in mind that, when handled properly, psychopathy does not pose an immediate threat to community members.
Strategies for Managing the Concern
By perpetuating the myth about people with mental issues being dangerous, proponents of the identified false assumption make it extremely difficult for people struggling with mental disorders to reintegrate into society. The fact that the specified viewpoint leads to depriving mental health patients form the support of their community members must be deemed as one of the primary factors against the further reinforcement of the specified falsehood in the minds of people all over the world.
It would be erroneous to claim either that people with mental health issues do not commit crimes or that there are no mental conditions that may exacerbate one’s aggression. However, even though psychopathy has been proven to have a direct effect on one’s willingness to engage in destructive, aggressive, and violent behaviors, the specified phenomenon cannot be considered applicable to all cases of mental health disorders (Sadeh et al., 2014). Quite the contrary, for the most part, people with mental health issues can be characterized by either lack of violent tendencies or inward aggression that may cause them to harm themselves.
By perpetuating the myth about all people with mental health issues being potentially dangerous to the society, one contributes to the enhancement of social ostracism experienced by mental health patients (Cheng, McDermott, & Lopez, 2015). The specified approach does not help resolve the issue; instead, it exacerbates the problem, preventing people with mental conditions to identify acceptable social patterns and creating obstacles for raising awareness among community members.
To handle the problem, one must consider using modern social media as the tools for introducing people to correct and verified information. Seeing that contemporary media is used to create a plague of false assumptions about people with mental health disorders, it also needs to be utilized to subvert the identified myth and allow people to view factual information. Social networks must become the platform for establishing communication between community members and healthcare organizations. Thus, the former will be provided with extensive information that can be used for further self-education. Also, social media can become the platform for maintaining a connection between society and patients with mental health disorders.
As a result, opportunities for subverting hurtful statements make as a result of being misinformed can be realized. Moreover, the use of social media can contribute to addressing the problem of self-stigma, which is often experienced by people with mental disorders. According to a recent study, the combination of openness and anonymity, which social media provides to its users, creates an environment in which people with health issues can safely share their experiences (Cheng et al., 2015). The identified observation proves that patients with mental conditions are not in the least bit different from the rest of the community.
Impressions and Key Conclusions
An overview of the existing studies on how the link between mental health issues and violence is regarded in modern society was rather shocking to me. I never realized that people made a distinct connection between outbursts of violence such as mass shootings and mental issues, thus, contributing to the emergence of prejudices in society. However, a closer look at recent studies shows that there is a tendency among modern communities to believe that people with mental health problems are more prone to violence than other citizens, which is supported by recent mass shootings. However, the specified myth is completely detached from reality since people with mental health problems can be described as confused, prone to depression, and sad, but rarely aggressive. By stating that mental health patients are violent and, therefore, should be feared as possible attackers, people disperse a very dangerous lie across the global community, thus, driving the chances of mental health patients to restore their social interactions and become active members of their community once again.
An insight into the subject matter made me want to contribute to debunking the myth. I believe that encouraging a change in the current attitude toward people with mental health issues must be viewed as a priority for social workers and nurses. The specified steps can be accomplished by encouraging a global dialogue with the help of contemporary media tools. Particularly, social networks can be utilized as a platform for communicating the significance of support for people experiencing mental health problems. Furthermore, I believe that, by establishing a stronger bond between people with mental health problems and the rest of their community members, one will be able to showcase the absurdity of some of the myths surrounding mental health disorders and especially the idea of violence as a key characteristic of mental health patients.
Baskin-Sommers, A. R., Baskin, D. R., Sommers, I., Casados, A. T., Crossman, M. K., & Javdani, S. (2016). The impact of psychopathology, race, and environmental context on violent offending in a male adolescent sample. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 7(4), 354-362. Web.
Cheng, H. L., McDermott, R. C., & Lopez, F. G. (2015). Mental health, self-stigma, and help-seeking intentions among emerging adults: An attachment perspective. The Counseling Psychologist, 43(3), 463-487. Web.
Dodge, K. A., Bierman, K. L., Coie, J. D., Greenberg, M. T., Lochman, J. E., McMahon, R. J., & Pinderhughes,, E. E. (2014). Impact of early intervention on psychopathology, crime, and well-being at age 25. American Journal of Psychiatry, 172(1), 59-70. Web.
McGinty, E. E., Webster, D. W., Jarlenski, M., & Barry, C. L. (2014). News media framing of serious mental illness and gun violence in the United States, 1997-2012. American Journal of Public Health, 104(3), 406-413. Web.
O’Reilly, K., Donohoe, G., Coyle, C., O’Sullivan, D., Rowe, A., Losty, M.,… Brennan, L. (2015). Prospective cohort study of the relationship between neuro-cognition, social cognition and violence in forensic patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. BMC Psychiatry, 15(1), 155-171. Web.
Sadeh, N., Binder, R. L., & McNiel, D. E. (2014). Recent victimization increases risk for violence in justice-involved persons with mental illness. Law and Human Behavior, 38(2), 119-125. Web.
Trump, D. (2017). Remarks by President Trump in meeting with local and state officials on school safety. Web.
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