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“There has been an increase in the proportion of persons who associate mental illness with dangerousness, violence, and unpredictability’ (Margarita, 2005: 3) With reference to this statement, what is the public understanding of the nature and extent of mental disorder and how accurate is this? Intro This essay will look at the public understanding of the nature of mental disorder and to what extent it is associated with dangerousness and violence. The essay will begin by exploring the publics perspectives and opinions on the matter and the impact that the mentally ill have on crime rates.

Specific social perspectives will also be explored.. And finally the clinical approach on mental disorders will be explored and the risk factors and how the patients are diagnosed. Different definitions Mental disorders have existed as long as humans have, although times have no changed and people have become more educated, this means that treatment for them is more readily available in society. The advancements in the knowledge of mental disorders have raised a series of problems and also solutions thus they are classified meaning that the symptoms are more easily diagnosed and treatable.

There are many different definitions of mental illnesses based on peoples’ opinions and experiences. One recognizable reason behind this is the media and the media’s interpretation of the mentally ill in their portrayal of fictional characters. Hannibal Lectern and Patrick Bateman from American Psycho are both primary examples of this both portrayed mentally ill serial killers and both came across as horrible people. These representations of the mentally ill contribute to the stereotypes throughout society, the public opinion of mentally disordered individuals relies greatly on how they are represented in the media.

Overall public opinion – 627 People with mental illness often have to struggle with two problems. The obvious problem being the symptoms of the disease itself, these symptoms vary depending on the particular mental disorder but these could be hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, hearing voices or mood swings. These symptoms can make it very difficult for someone to lead a normal life and participate in everyday activities such as working.

The second problem that has to be taken into consideration are the misunderstanding that occur in society in relation to mental disorders therefore leading to public stigma. It is incredibly difficult in society for those who suffer from mental illnesses, but are able to work, to find a job because employers discriminate against them and think they are incapable. Consequently, not only do those suffering from mental illnesses have to deal with the symptoms, they also have to deal with the disadvantages through the reaction in society.

Furthermore, those who suffer from mental illness who encounter public stigma experience further complications as some individuals accept the common prejudices and therefore turn on themselves – this is commonly known as self-stigma. Systematizing attitudes emanate from various public assumptions. The media is an example of the assumptions that are created among society. The media identifies three common misconceptions regarding those with mental illnesses: ‘they are homicidal maniacs who should be feared; they are rebellious, free spirits; or they have childlike perceptions of the world that should be marveled. 40, Haler, Gabbed and Schneider, 1 991; Wahl, 1995) These findings can be confirmed by independent factor analyses from Canada, England and Germany by identifying the following factors: First of all, ear and exclusion: the idea that individuals with severe mental disorders are to be feared and, therefore, kept out of social environments; second, authoritarianism: this is the idea that those with mental illnesses are irresponsible and therefore unable to make important decisions in life and thus should be made by others; and thirdly, benevolence: this concept suggests that those with mental illnesses are childlike and therefore need looking after. (Moneymaker and Interchanger, 2004; Brooking et al. , 1 993; Taylor and Dear, 1981 ).

Although systematizing attitudes are not only relatable o mental illness, the public attitudes towards mental illness tend to be more disapproving than towards people with physical illnesses (Pine and Kale, 1984; Social and Holographs, 1992; Winner, Perry and Magnusson, 1988). Those with mental illnesses are viewed as being more likely to be responsible for their mental illness (Corcoran et al. , 2000; 105). This assumptions is more towards those who suffer from substance additions and eating disorders rather than those who suffer from conditions such as schizophrenia (Moneymaker and Interchanger, 2004). Such attitudes as these therefore lead o discrimination. People in society are less likely to employ (Broodier and Dreamer, 1986) and rent apartments (Page, 1977) to those suffering from mental illness, citizens are also more likely to direct false accusations of violence to the mentally ill. Explaining the increased arrest rate among mental patients: a cautionary note, 1980; Statesman, 1981) Although the stereotype towards the mentally ill is very current in society, it is not to say that all of the public agree with it. For example, there are many stereotypes of different ethnic groups but not everybody would agree with them. In contrast, rejoiced people will endorse these negative stereotypes, an example fifths being that ‘those who are mentally ill are violent’, as a consequence this then leads to negative emotional reactions and the concept of fearing the mentally ill. (Rush, Moneymaker and Corcoran, 2005) Stigmas cannot be formed from prejudice and stereotypes alone.

Other factors are necessary such as, social, economic and political power. In essence, if a person who is mentally ill was to form a stereotype towards a member of staff working in a mental health service, that member of staff is unlikely to become part of a stigma, this is cause a person with a mental illness does not have the power to create such a stigma and put it into practice (Link and Philae, 2001). Thus, public stigma consists of three elements – stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. Differing opinions History Public attitudes towards mental health have changed drastically, during the 18th century there was no knowledge of mental illness – or very little.

People were frightened of what they did not know and understand. The mentally ill were seen as ‘different’ and many people referred to them as ‘schemers with “cracked heads”‘ (Factual). The lack of knowledge of the mentally ill led to curiosity, people wondered whether these ‘schemers’ were mad, ill or in fact criminals. Mental illness was viewed as a disease that Was spreading amongst prisons and hospitals. Sigmund Freud changed the publics opinion on mental health by taking on a new approach on personality (Barcaroles, Carson and Shoemaker, 2006). Fraud’s theory was that mental disorders exist in people due to unresolved issues that have developed in their early childhood (Barcaroles et al. , 2006).

In recent years, there has been a rise in interest towards mental health and he social aspects, interest in what may contribute to mental distress, and also interests in what forms of support are most effective in helping people to reclaim meaningful and socially valued lives.

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