When I read the Huffington Post article, “Racism is not mental illness,” I agreed with the author’s caution that media tends to use “mental illness” as a way to minimize the effect of a systematic racism. Also “mental illness” seems to become a shield for the perpetrator to avoid taking full responsibility of his action. Nevertheless, I also concerns the dichotomize thinking that continues to separate mental illness from the systematic problems.
By definition, mental illness is the disordered/abnormal thoughts, emotion, and behaviors that bring self or/and other suffering. People with distorted worldview (thoughts) and committed crimes (behaviors) that inflicted such pain to others; and they lack of remorse (emotions) is likely to meet certain criteria of psychiatric disorders, whether it’s AXIS I (symptom based) and/or AXIS II (personality disorder). However, any diagnosis of mental illness cannot take away the larger societal force that contributed to mental illness.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media’s understanding of mental illness is different from the commonly agreed “bio-psycho-social” model of mental illness. For years, mental illness has been systematically reduced to “chemical imbalance” of the brain for the profit of pharmaceutical company. The social factors contributed to and are maintaining mental illness are often neglected. (Note: I am not against psychotropic medications; yet medication may not be the solution or, medication is not the only solution needed to address any mental illness).
Social factors play extremely important roles in our mental health/illness; chronic high-stress working environment (see this article about incivility at work), unexamined racism, a culture that undermine critical thinking (see this blog post from Psychology Today about anti-intellectualism), an economy promoting self-centeredness rather empathy (see this blog post from Psychology Today)…etc.
Another thinking point here: Is it possible a group of people (a society, or a culture) suffer from some kind of collectivistic psychological disorder (mental illness)? As a result of such collectivistic mental illness, this group of people cannot process information rationally and insist on holding certain views that inflict pain to self/others (and even our earth). If this is possible, it seems we can put psychiatric diagnosis on current society:
- some kind of PTSD so people are overwhelmed by fear-based emotion and thinking style,
- some kind of learning disability to a degree that society as a whole lost the capacity to think critically and integrate new information,
- some kind of narcissistic personality disorder so the social resources are used to maintain grandiosity,
- some kind of dissociative disorder to a degree that one part of the society does not recognize the other part of the society as mutual existence,
- some kind of hoarding disorder to a degree that US as a country is using a significant portion of resource our earth has.
The main point here is: media cannot use mental illness to minimize the responsibility a society plays when one of its member suffered from mental illness and commit crime.
Note: This website does not intend to provide any specific individually-tailored psychological advice/services to replace any medical and/or psychological treatment. If the readers are in need of medical or psychological attention, please seek appropriate services in your area.
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