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The Plight of the Mentally Ill

By Goodwell Kaipa, Malawi


 The Plight of the Mentally Ill
 by Goodwell Kaipa, Malawi


People who are mentally ill have been given not so good labels by the "sane" ranging from mental cases, sun chasers and lunatics. If you could step in their feet and feel their sorrow, empathysing with their struggles. The world has always been unforgiving to those who suffer from mental illnesses. One publication even states that those who suffer from infectious diseases, Sexually Transmitted Diseases included, are viewed positively than those who are mentally ill. In this write up I will show the plight that the mentally ill face in their day to day lives

People with mental illnesses face problems in social interactions. The 'sane' most times have a tendency to treat them as second citizens. This makes them to be withdrawn which further worsens their illness. Some parents will at length treat their mentally ill children differently, showing them less attention than they show their 'sane' children.

Then there is the issue of stigma surrounding mental illnesses. A good number of the mentally ill will relapse not because they stopped taking their medications, but because of the depression that comes from society's negative perception of them.

It is no secret that society views those mentally ill as violent. This is contrary to research which points out that most times it is actually the mentally ill who are victims of violence. Not refuting the fact that a mental illness predisposes one to violent tendencies but most of the mentally ill are well meaning citizens who will never hurt a fly. Most people living with a mental illness I know are not violent as society chooses to view them.

To secure a job is also another problem for the mentally ill. Because of society's disenfranchisement towards them, most mentally ill people don't access opportunities in time, such as job openings even though they may be equally qualified. This just throws them into pits of poverty which just escalate and exacerbate their illness. Even if someone who suffers a from mental illness is lucky and finds a job, once his workmates learn of his diagnosis, he will be subjected to uncalled stigma and discrimination which will make him have a lot of day offs, fearing being labelled at workplace making him a less productive citizen.

Media's portrayal of the mentally ill as maladapted and society' negative view of them lead the mentally ill people into a self-fulfilling prophecy leading them to develop anti-social behavior which would not have been the case if the media decided to positively portray a mental Illness as something which is not disabling. Mostly the media portrays the mentally ill as the violent kind and of low intelligence. This makes the mentally ill have no positive role models to look up to since all stories which are aired on radios and written in papers are not all that inspiring.

To conclude my write up, I want to end by asking government to intensify awareness campaigns on mental illnesses so that society can be schooled on what it feels to live with a mental illness and the help that can be rendered to the mentally ill if any for their wellbeing. That way maybe people with mental illnesses will be incorporated into our society just like everyone else and not be vilified like the way it has always been. The media should desist from showing only the negative sides of mental illnesses. There are a lot of the mentally challenged people in the world who are contributing something positive to the world. Let their stories be highlighted so that they can act as a motivation to the mentally ill and help reduce stigma surrounding mental illnesses. To families who have children who are mentally ill, I want to tell them that they should not treat their mentally ill daughters and sons differently from their other children. They should involve their mentally ill children in the affairs of the family and not ostracize them. People with mental illnesses have a right to be treated with dignity and respect just like everyone else.

Disability is not inability, and a mental illness should not be a tag which should be put on the chest of the mentally ill. After all a mental illness is not a debilitating organic disease which will make you die.



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