Mental Illness and Our Attitude Problem

One of the many “burdens” felt by those who struggle with mental health issues is discrimination in public life and in the workplace. Yet, research shows that reducing the stigma associated with mental illness drastically aids in the long-term prognosis of the mental ill. Attitude is everything. The problem is that the general public seems to take one of three positions when it comes to mental illness: authoritarianism, benevolence, and fear-based exclusion.  Authoritarianism takes the stance that a mentally ill person is unable to control his or herself; therefore, others should control them.  Like authoritarianism, benevolence takes the stance that the mentally ill cannot control his or herself. However, benevolence differs from authoritarianism in that benevolence assumes that the mentally ill are child-like and need to be taken care of.  Sadly, exclusion is the most prevalent attitude amongst those who are uneducated about the realities of mental disorders. This attitude takes the stance that the mentally ill are a threat and menace to society; therefore, they should be segregated from the rest of so-called normal society. All three of the aforementioned attitudes are problematic not only for the people who ignorantly hold them, but for the individual who deserves the right to heal and function freely in society in spite of their struggles with mental illness.

Instead of turning to keyboard warriors for opinions about depression, suicide, and mental illness, let’s adopt a better attitude. Instead of authoritatively trying to control people, condescendingly “taking care” of people, or excluding people whose struggles are unseen, let’s put on compassion.

Just for a second, stop trying to figure out “why” and try being compassionate.

Have compassion for the individuals who want to be better but don’t know how.

Have compassion for the families who grieve over their hurting loved ones.

Have compassion for those who carry a burden that many of us will never know.


Corrigan, P.W., Larson, J.E., & Kuwabara, S.A. (2007). Mental illness stigma and the fundamental components of supported employment. Rehabilitation Psychology, 52(4), 451-457.

Holmes, E. P., Corrigan, P. W., Williams, P., Canar, J., & Kubiak, M. A. (1999). Changing attitudes about schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 25(3), 447-456.

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