Dehumanization of People with Mental Illness

What is stigma? Stigma is a mark or a label, either physical, such as a tattoo, or psychological, such as stereotyping. In any case, it is believing that the other is less-than-human, an animal, and therefore his suffering is acceptable.

There are one million suicides worldwide annually. There are more suicides in the United States than both deaths from traffic accidents and homicides.

Why doesn't this bother the lay person? This is what may go on in his head: "wow, there are a lot of suicides in the world. Why would people want to end their lives? It must be because they deserve it. They are different and therefore deserve to die. So I guess it's just a fact of life, and since it doesn't affect me I'll go on living my life as I did a moment ago."

Why do I think people dehumanize those that kill themselves by suicide (or have mental illnesses)? Because if they really considered those people to be like themselves, they would surely be outraged.

Example: racism in present-day America.


Preventing Depression

“The health care system is set up to pay providers for treatment. It has not been set up to pay providers for prevention of mental disorders,” said Muñoz. “Without financial incentives for prevention few professionals will engage in preventive interventions. It’s a major structural obstacle.”


Causes of Depression (Etiology)

My own view is that depression arises out of an enormously complicated, constantly shifting, elusive concatenation of circumstance, temperament, and biochemistry.
–David Karp, An Unwelcome Career 

I shall never learn what “caused” my depression, as no one will ever learn about their own. To be able to do so will likely forever prove to be an impossibility, so complex are the intermingled factors of abnormal chemistry, behavior and genetics. Plainly, multiple components are involved—perhaps three of four, most probably more, in fathomless permutations.
–William Styron, Darkness Visible

Some causes (etiology) of depression

  • Stopping smoking or alcohol suddenly (William Styron, Les Murray)
  • Withdrawal from prescription or illicit drugs
  • Traumatic event or loss
  • Disease, such as cancer
  • Brain injury
  • Incomplete grief (ex: early loss of a mother)
There is no single consistent cause, but a combination of genes and the environment. There is usually a predisposition to depression (genes - family history of mental illness), and stressful events (environment), such as loss of a loved one, can trigger a depressive episode. 

Primary paradigm of contemporary mainstream Western psychiatry is said to be the biopsychosocial (BPS) model, incorporating biological, psychological and social factors.


The Ethics of Reporting Suspected Suicides

Counselors must have absolute and positive ethical and legal duty to report suicide threats just as they have a duty to report suspected child abuse in which any and all suspected situations are reported. Suicide is just too big of a threat to ignore and it overrides whatever obligations to privacy they have to the student. Ignoring a suicide threat is like ignoring claims of rape or child abuse by the victims.

The school also must be legally responsible for a student’s suicide. A counselor’s ethical obligation to a suicidal student has to extend beyond parental notification. And of course the student is going to deny that they said anything about attempting suicide - they are scared they will be locked up in a psychiatric ward. If a student isn’t helped after notifying parents or guardians, then the student’s counseling needs haven’t been met. School counselors must make every attempt to supply parents or guardians with counseling referrals until placement is secured for that student.