Sharing – Who Gets to Be Mentally Ill?
I wish I could disagree with this statement, but I’d be lying.
But, even as the stigma around mental illness has faded, it has become clear that this compassion and effort extend only so far, and that they are not available to everyone. Often those fault lines appear around class—and around the type of mental illness. People who are perceived as productive members of society, who have jobs and who rent or own their homes, are, in some cases, allowed to be anxious, down, or depressed. Meanwhile, mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and substance use disorder, which result in behaviours that can be perceived as destructive and sometimes even violent, are not discussed as freely.
It is true. I’ve seen it myself. The same people who are willing to encourage others to talk about depression and anxiety are also some of the same people who assume people with other mental health issues are “dangerous.” Society tends to draw a line around which kinds of mental health issues are understandable and which ones are dangerous. In addition, we draw that same line around who is dangerous and who isn’t, which has very little to do with the type of issue but around whether they look like us or do not look like us.
So, someone like me, a middle-aged, professional, white male, can talk about struggling and get encouragement, pointed to good resources that are affordable for me, and there’s hope that I’ll get better. Someone living near poverty will say the same thing, and we start looking at whether they should have their kids removed from the home or how we can keep them away from a “safe” society.
It gets worse if they are not white and/or have a more serious mental health issue.
That’s not right. Everyone deserves quality mental health care. We shouldn’t divide who gets the care and who doesn’t based on what kind of mental health issue they have or who they are. That’s no way to solve this issue.