The Lantern

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A little CDO

Students with mental illness suffer almost as much from the stigma in the media as from the illness itself.

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The author carefully arranges her materials

The author carefully arranges her materials

Katie Allen

Katie Allen

The author carefully arranges her materials

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According to the CDC, one in four people have mental health problems. Therefore, one in four people who are reading this, are crazy, but if we are really honest with ourselves, we are all a little crazy. If you talk to yourself that’s fine, I do too, but if you talk back to yourself, I will need to recommend you to my therapist. At a glance in the hallway, people may notice three things about me: I have blonde hair, the cutest shirts, and I’m completely OCD. Secretly, I like to say that I’m a little CDO; it’s OCD only in alphabetical order, as it should be. In 2016, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 44.7 million people suffer from mental disorders in the United States alone; two-thirds of those people, according to the World Health Organization, never seek help out of embarrassment, discrimination, neglect, or the negative stigma associated with mental health. Misrepresentation of mental health can be detrimental to everyone. To find a cure to this epidemic, we need to first examine the overuse of disorder terms and second excessive depiction of violence in media.

The overuse of words in society, especially those regarding mental health, is problematic. Semantic Satiation is overusing a word, to the point where the listener believes they are hearing a combination of non-coherent syllables, that consequently deprives the word of meaning. This concept can be applied to the repeated use of mental health slang terms in our daily life. However, if we use words like crazy, insane, or that’s so OCD, the depth and the severity of the symptoms surrender their meaning.  After all, according to a National Mental Health Association survey, in 2001, only 55% of people without depression believe that depression is a serious illness and isn’t something that people can “snap out of.” Compiling this issue further, society is preaching mental illness as a joke, thereby teaching sufferers to view their illness as a joke, repeating the cycle of silencing those who are suffering. An Atlantic article written in 2015, titled “OCD is not a Quirk” discusses how outsiders view OCD as a cute and positive trait, since it deals with maintaining a clean and organized environment. Completely disregarding the emotional stress behind the disorders, people are even using acronyms, such as OCD, to make jokes about anything from Obsessive Christmas Disorder to Obsessive Crafting Disorder. Everyday crazy, ADD, and OCD jokes are becoming a social norm. They are placed in daily conversations, TV episodes, and even movies.

Misrepresentation of mental health in film and media is becoming a problem too. There is an overuse of mental health slang terms and there is a negative light shown on how the mentally ill treat others. Recently, I watched the movie “Perks of Being a Wallflower” starring Emma Watson and Logan Lerman released in 2012. Charlie, the main character battling severe depression, looks to find friends while overcoming confidence issues. Midway through the movie Charlie breaks into a fight with some upperclassman who are picking on his new friends. Although violence could occur, this movie, along with many others, depict the mentally ill as primarily violent. According to James M Knoll’s paper titled “Mass Shootings and Mental Illness”in 2015, states that the mentally ill contribute to only 3% of violent crimes in the US. However, according to Brian Smith’s essay in 2015, titled “Mental Illness Stigma in the Media”, after watching 1,215 episodes of television shows,  he recorded that 72% of the mentally ill characters were depicted as violent. The dramatic difference between reality and media, as far as depicting those who are mentally ill, creates a negative image of the mentally ill community. The media, specifically films, social media, politicians, and news broadcasting stations are scapegoating the mentally ill as violent, by stating that the root of the violence or mass shootings comes from a person’s depression, or any other mental illness for that matter. This is only clouding the issue at hand.

About 2 years ago I was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD, Anxiety, and later Depression. Immediately after the diagnosis, I was placed on medication and I attended monthly therapy sessions to aid me in coping with the disorders. One of my compulsions I continually work to eradicate is my obsession to maintain a cleaned and organized atmosphere. Although this can be useful, at times, this obsessive need wastes my time, emotion, and energy. Ruby Wax, in 2012, gave a Ted Talk on making fun of mental illness. She explains that if someone were to have a broken leg, they would receive flowers, cards, and many visitors while in the hospital. While she was later hospitalized for her depression, she would rather get phone calls telling her to cheer up, because she hadn’t thought of that before. When someone breaks their leg, others would want to see the x-ray. When someone is mentally ill, however, it can be embarrassing because it doesn’t seem like a physical disability, even though it’s just an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Wax states “How come every other organ in your body can get sick, and you get sympathy, except the brain?” Feeling ashamed, the mentally ill will doubt how severe their symptoms are, and they will even go as far as to avoid seeking help.

So exactly how do we combat this epidemic? Michael Friedman, a clinical psychologist who graduate from University of Pennsylvania,Yale, and Brown (clearly an underachiever) states “The stigma of mental illness is perhaps the greatest barrier to care. It is preventable, and doing so would radically reduce suffering, disability and global economic burden.” Therefore, to stop the stigma, we need to first prevent the use of jokes. Refrain from using words such as psycho, crazy, insane, and phrases such as “I’m so OCD”,“I’m so bipolar”, or “I’m a little ADD”, will allow the conditions to be given respect. No longer will we allow belittling people who are suffering, many of whom may be sitting quietly beside us. Second, media and films need to depict stop incorporating semantically satiated mental health terms into daily life.Third, politicians need to stop encouraging this behavior either through speeches or Twitter. Therefore, by voting out politicians, stopping retweets of jokes, and by starving films of funds that are inaccurately depicting mental health, will allow our society to clearly see mental health for what it is.

Now, I bet everyone have laughed at or made a mental health joke, possibly even earlier in this article. Now we have all done it, but the point is to start reducing the stigma today. One in four people suffer from mental health problems, today it was me in the room, but nobody knows about the guy next door. And while some of those people may suffer from more than alphabetizing their disorders, the person next door is the victim to violent media portrayal and misrepresentation. However, changing the representation of mental health by stopping semantic satiation, by encouraging Hollywood to accurately depict mental health, and by voting out politicians, our society will finally be able to heal. Now remember, people are suffering from mental illness every hour of every day, in every place, in every way so please don’t say that we are a little crazy, a little depressed, or a little CDO.

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A little CDO