It so happens to be the case that the media’s portrayal of the mentally ill as violent is totally wrong. The mentally ill are often benign and do more harm to themselves than to others.
Over the past two decades, the media has been presenting the mentally ill as Hannibal the Cannibal freaks or Charles Manson types that are out for blood, but such is hardly the case.
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They are more the victims rather than the victimizers of a cruel and callous society. The news stories show mental illness as the sole cause behind many murders, rapes, assaults and homicides. The fact of the matter is that hardly 5% of the cases of violence are even connected in any way with mental illness.
This finding which shows the mirror to society was published in the June issue of Health Affairs.
The picture painted by the media shows its tendency to exaggerate and make a mountain out of a molehill. The media says that most of the mentally ill patients are likely to engage in violence and some of them actually act on their savage impulses. This could be hardly be further from the truth.
The surprising fact is that the media has continued in its age-old art of blowing things up way out of proportion. This is so despite the fact that the evidence has been in since a long time regarding violence and mental illness.
The connection is a very weak one. Rather the stigma attached with the mentally ill is having its flames fanned by the negative news on the media channels.
Over 20% of the US population suffers from one mental illness or another. Almost half of them get labeled in some odd way. The number of haphazard mass shootings have been more likely to be portrayed as the result of the gunman being mad.
Yet this fact even if it is taken to be true has remained a constant over the years. The media shows it like it has increased over the years.
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Violence may be the result of illegal drug use. Negative stories that point to mental illness alone as the sole factor behind violence are doing a great injustice to not only the mentally ill but to society as well since everyone gets the wrong impression of these poor suffering people. While those who kill people may or may not be mentally healthy, the mentally ill are not out to kill other people.