Our Shared Shelf discussion

463 views
Intersectional Feminism > Discrimination Against Those With Mental Illnesses

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Lauren (last edited Jul 30, 2016 04:34AM) (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Recently I've been reading up a lot on intersectionality, and trying to educate myself on different types of oppression that may not necessarily affect me personally, but I still feel it is important to try to understand difficulties others may face.
However, an issue which does affect me, yet I have found little about the subject in relation to intersectionality and feminism, is the stigma against mental illness. I feel that this is an issue which is sadly inherent within our society. Although I know I shouldn't, I often feel too ashamed to share my problems for fear of being misunderstood or considered a freak. I was terrified of seeking help as I did not want be seen as mentally ill.
Something which I find particularly harmful is the use of mental health slurs to describe violent criminals or terrorists. For instance I read and overheard many examples of people referring to the attacker in Nice a couple of weeks ago as a madman or a lunatic. I belive this just deepens the stigma, creating an association between criminals and those with a mental health problem. For those of us with a mental illness, we are made to feel like we are dangerous or unwelcome, forcing us to question whether or not we are bad people.
I think this is an important topic which can often be overlooked. The only articles I have found relating to intersectionality and mental illness discuss how oppressed groups can develop mental health problems, rather than considering how those with mental illnesses are an oppressed group themselves.
What does everyone else feel about this particular issue? Can anyone recommend any books or articles which relate to mental health and intersectionality?


message 2: by Agustin (new)

Agustin | 223 comments First, I'm very sorry for your current situation. I hope you'll find the propper help and support form those who are close to you.

Second: in many cases it has been proven that the perpetrator of a crime was suffering form some mental illness while commiting the crime. Instead of saying that the individual was "mad" or "crazy", they should specify what mental illness he/she suffers. Probably most of those people iddn't recieve the propper medical/personal help they needed.

One good way of dealing with this issue is by educating people.


message 3: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments I agree that education is really important to achieve more understanding and acceptance. People often seem unable to comprehend invisible illnesses, which is understandable. I know that criminals undoubtedly often do suffer from some form of mental illness, but I think people frequently attribute their crimes to 'madness' when perhaps they are just immoral people with extreme views. I know there are obviously genuinely examples of people commiting crimes because of mental health problems, but sometimes I feel like people use it as an excuse or a justification. Continually connecting criminals and those with a mental illness I think is just an example of how such a negative image has been created around the issue.


message 4: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
Hi Lauren, though it's not specifically about mental illness, check out this thread for recommendations for books that intersect feminism and disabilities: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

Also, please feel free to start a thread in the Book Suggestions folder where members can contribute book recommendations on this topic!

There is a stigma surrounding mental illness and while I don't know enough about this topic myself to make any claims about the ratio of its effect on different genders, I think it's a safe bet to say that the stigma and mental illness itself affects different genders very differently. For that reason, I think we need to consider how feminism in general can make progress in this area, and to consider in what ways feminism itself can sometimes perpetuate the stigma as well.


message 5: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Thanks Katelyn, I will do! I agree that mental health certainly does affect different genders in different ways. The gender constructs society places on men and women contributes to people feeling under pressure to conform to certain expectations. For instance, in her UN speech Emma spoke about the high suicide rates amongst men who feel they cannot seek help, as they are expected to be 'manly'.
I've noticed that self acceptance is a recurring theme in feminist discussions, which is an important step to recovery. So I hope that progress in feminism will be able to help change the stigma against mental illness!


message 6: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments There are some poignant TEDtalks on mental illness. I think men in particular are in a bad position when suffering from various mental diseases. It doesn't help that many employers take an approach of squeezing out every last bit of juice from their employees, illness is bad for business, and mental illness obviously is something we imagine and exaggerate, because we want to take time off work...
/sarcasm

After first becoming aware of mentalism, I see mentalist language everywhere. Even in this group it is used quite without worry.


message 7: by Lauren (last edited Jul 30, 2016 12:48PM) (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments I know exactly what you mean! It really infuriates me when people make those sort of assumptions!


message 8: by Indigo (new)

Indigo (indigo_denovan) | 96 comments This is an excellent read for those who want to read it. It breaks down the violence most commonly done quite wonderfully. It shows that violence is based on people acting out their morals, knowing full well that they are hurting and killing someone, but not caring because they see the end - re-establishment of social order in their relationships with others and their communities - as being well worth the cost, and also seeing their victims as "not being human at all." The latter is especially true for those deemed as "inhuman" and "dangerous" to the perpetrator for whatever reason (disabled, neurodivergent, LGBT+, POCs, etc.)

https://aeon.co/essays/people-resort-...

I thought it was wonderful because I am QUITE frustrated by the BS of always ascribing the damn "mental illness" to white shooters, but never to people of color oh my yes. THOSE people are terrorists. White men? Never! They're just mentally ill and a "rare case" when they are truly NOT and they actually make up the vast majority of serial killers and mass murderers and terrorist shooters in America. Betcha the media doesn't talk much about that uncomfortable point does it?

Reasons to take out ableist language in your vocabulary:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-...

Everyday things that are actually ableism:
http://thebodyisnotanapology.com/maga...

Words to avoid and substitutes to use instead:
http://www.autistichoya.com/p/ableist... (great for clarifying exactly what those words are and why they're ableist)
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/a... (great for getting you thinking about alternatives by offering very good ones to use)

I hope this takes off and that people read the links and educate themselves. :) I'm making sure not to put any of those words into my own writing or to replicate any of those damaging assumptions as much as I can. I keep going back in my writing and finding more problematic stuff that snuck in without my thinking about it, and editing them out. Like hell I'm gonna hurt some of my readers (even if unintentionally and accidentally) by displaying the very things that hurt them every day without any calling out of the narrative that it's a bad thing. If I can I'll make sure it's not even there in the narrative to begin with, and if it is then it has a carefully-weighed and -written reason for being there.

Even in my speech and IMing to friends I am doing my best to cut out those problematic turns of phrases and labels and words and to stop using them. It's a work of progress and takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to really start to see results.


message 9: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Good comment, Indigo.

I prefer to distinguish between ableism and mentalism. Thought I should add this. Mentalism is very specific and comes with its own problems and biases, compared to ableism. Issues such as taboo also express vastly differently in the two.


message 10: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Indigo wrote: "This is an excellent read for those who want to read it. It breaks down the violence most commonly done quite wonderfully. It shows that violence is based on people acting out their morals, knowing..."

Thanks Indigo! I totally agree; when a white person commits a crime it is nearly always attributed to 'mental illness' but if it were a black or Asian person, it would be deemed terrorism. For instance, a few weeks ago in Britain, a politician was horrifically murdered by a white man in the name of 'Britain First' (a far right extremist party). Yet the media made no mention of it being a terrorist attack, eventhough it was the equivalent of the attacks committed by extremist Muslims, particularly in France. If the man had not been white, I guarantee it would have been called terrorism. It seems like society considers that only black or Asian people can be terrorists, which is extremely harmful. He undoubtedly knew what he was doing, and had a clear agenda to cause suffering. It should have been seen as an act of intentional terrorism, and not mere 'madness'.


message 11: by Alia (new)

Alia Lauren wrote: "I totally agree; when a white person commits a crime it is nearly always attributed to 'mental illness' but if it were a black or Asian person, it would be deemed terrorism..."

That's just racism. It implies that for a white person to be that heinous they must be ill, but for a non-white person its just how they are naturally. And its still using mental illness slurs.


message 12: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments I just hate how people who should be labelled terrorists are instead seen as mentally ill which just deepens the stigma. Fine, encourage anger and aminosity towards terrorists but not those with mental health problems.


message 13: by James (new)

James Corprew Lauren wrote: "Indigo wrote: " It seems like society considers that only black or Asian people can be terrorists, "

I cant speak about the UK but thats not the case in the US. When a white boy shot and killed a bunch of black people at a church in South Carolina he was labeled a racist and a terrorist. But then recently when a black man started shooting cops in Dallas he was never branded a terrorist but instead a "madman".


message 14: by Katelyn, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Katelyn (katelynrh) | 836 comments Mod
James wrote: "Lauren wrote: "Indigo wrote: " It seems like society considers that only black or Asian people can be terrorists, "

I cant speak about the UK but thats not the case in the US. When a white boy sho..."


That's really interesting. All of the coverage that I saw of both of those accounts were flipped. The white kid was deemed mentally ill by the media (and racist, too, yes, but I don't think I ever heard him called a terrorist other than by those who were pointing out the hypocrisy of not doing so), and the shooter in Dallas I have heard referred to as a terrorist multiple times in conjunction with falsely labeling the Black Lives Matter movement as a terrorist group.

I'm not trying to argue with your account, but we must be reading/watching/listening to very different media!


message 15: by Indigo (new)

Indigo (indigo_denovan) | 96 comments Aglaea wrote: "Good comment, Indigo.

I prefer to distinguish between ableism and mentalism. Thought I should add this. Mentalism is very specific and comes with its own problems and biases, compared to ableism. ..."


I would love to hear more what you see is the difference between ableism and mentalism. I profess this is the first time I've come across mentalism, let alone as being different from ableism? Do you mean ableism on the mental health side of the issue, not just the physical health more commonly discussed in the ableism? Or do you mean something quite different? :)


message 16: by Aglaea (new)

Aglaea | 987 comments Indigo wrote: "Aglaea wrote: "Good comment, Indigo.

I prefer to distinguish between ableism and mentalism. Thought I should add this. Mentalism is very specific and comes with its own problems and biases, compared to ableism. ..."

I would love to hear more what you see is the difference between ableism and mentalism. I profess this is the first time I've come across mentalism, let alone as being different from ableism? Do you mean ableism on the mental health side of the issue, not just the physical health more commonly discussed in the ableism? Or do you mean something quite different? :)"


I think psychiatry and psychology are still so distant from bodily health (even though I see everything as a single system) that it's somehow easier to discuss of ableism in terms of an (non-)able body.

'Mentalism' on the other hand very cleverly refers to mental health. Often people are brutally questioned because they suffer from something that others can't see on the outside, and due to this I think everything involving mental health and discrimination deserves its own expression. Mental health can still be something so sensitive that people choose to hide their conditions, and just think of how "crazy", "mental", "insane" etc. are carelessly thrown around, as were they something not to take seriously.

There's also a different sort of taboo related to say depression than for instance visual impairment (which today might not even come with taboos in many places in the world anymore). Those who need a wheelchair will need ramps installed, whereas a person with mental ailments will need something entirely different from their employer and colleagues. The latter will need to work on attitude adjustments alone rather than perhaps providing something tangible to support an employee in a wheelchair, as an example.

How many are scared of psych wards by the way? When we dig deeper, surprisingly many are. It shouldn't be like that, though.


message 17: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Admittedly I used to be, and perhaps still am to an extent, afraid of psych words for their (inaccurately) negative connotations, which the media is largely responsible for generating. Although I myself know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, it is impossible to shake the fear of being judged and thought of as 'insane'. I think the best way to combat this is for people to educate themselves about the reality of mental health, and how common it actually is. What does anyone else think about ways of changing how people perceive mental illness?


message 18: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Sorry I just realised that you said psych wards not words! Whilst I know they undoubtedly help people, the idea of being admitted to one seems very frightening to me. I've probably just seen too many films where psych wards are portrayed as prisons, but here is yet another example of the media stigmatising mental illness. Would hospitals for physical illnesses be presented in such as way, with the patients portrayed as 'freaks'? Probably not.


Rosielovesreading7 | 8 comments I think their are two sides to this argument in which if we address it, maybe it can help us to reduce this oppression. On one side you have people that call mentally ill people 'mad' for example, and this could be someone either trying to block their own problems and therefore taking it out on someone else but making it sound terrible because society deems it as abnormal or, out of heightened emotions they are not able to express themselves in a suitable manner.

Then you have the other side which may feel the need to pretend they are, what is seen as 'normal', so that people can accept them and in doing this they too hold their emotions back which may cause other problems which in turn make it like a never ending cycle. Maybe if people began to accept that this is who someone is and instead of trying to 'fix' this problem, it could be better if people supported how someone is and adjusting instead of changing. I can't be totally confident that these are the exact reasons but this usually helps addressing if someone had insecurities of their own.


message 20: by Alia (new)

Alia Aside from the discrimination and shunning due to superstitions about disablities and just the fact that they CAN, personal space invasion is a pretty huge problem for many disabled people.


message 21: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 273 comments i think that doing away with shame is a big step in changing the perception of mental illness. i am mentally and emotionally ill due to being traumatized over a long period of time. there is nothing shameful in that, yet too many times people feel ashamed of something over which they have had no control. that's like being ashamed of having cancer.

and, unsolicited advice is not welcome! nor are dismissive statements (well, you can still work, so it can't be that bad.) no one else knows exactly what someone else goes thru in this struggle to remain viable, useful, and constructive, preserving some sense of self-worth rather than becoming an in-valid.


message 22: by Alyson (new)

Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 149 comments I think change is needed. There is all this negativity surrounding mental illness and it makes so many people feel ashamed. Those who have a mental illness and seek treatment are shamed instead of being applauded for getting help. Those who don't get help just seem so kind of, well, lost. I think we just need to change views on this issue.


message 23: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Winch | 18 comments Serena wrote: "I think change is needed. There is all this negativity surrounding mental illness and it makes so many people feel ashamed. Those who have a mental illness and seek treatment are shamed instead of ..."

I totally agree! I think the negativity is also due to a lack of understanding amongst the majority of people about the nature and causes of mental illnesses. Like when people assume that those with depression or anxiety can just 'snap out of it' or 'try harder', and it just doesn't work like that.


message 24: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 273 comments I have anxiety and depression, and unfortunately, I have encountered a lot of people who think I just "don't want to get better" or I should just "smile more" or "be happier" to feel better. This causes a lot of people to view my mental illnesses as personal failings or in a negative way, not as illnesses.

the ignorance of people can be extremely hurtful and insensitive. i hope you are able to ignore them for the most part. we can't change them, unfortunately. sometimes, tho, i'd like to smack them upside the head until they 'get' it. lol!!! it won't happen, so we've got to take care of ourselves as best we can. as i say to my friends also suffering - hang tough, baby. i'm hangin' right beside you!


message 25: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Harre | 24 comments I think they should start teaching these things in school. They have health class for your body, they need a mental health class. Teach children the signs of depression, eating disorders and other mental illnesses. I believe we need to teach our children that this is something common and ways they can either get help or help their friends.


message 26: by Sandra (new)

Sandra | 273 comments Melissa wrote: "I think they should start teaching these things in school. They have health class for your body, they need a mental health class. Teach children the signs of depression, eating disorders and other ..."

what an excellent idea!


message 27: by Marina (new)

Marina | 314 comments as for ableism vs mentalism, well imo that's a false dichotomy. a lot of physically disabled/ill people have invisible illnesses. they get lots of rude questions and for example they may be shamed for using the disabled parking spot. people also act surprised when they see a wheelchair user walking though the person might be able to walk just 100m or so.


back to top