One of the ways that I try to fight misinformation and stigma around mental illness is by answering questions on Quora. For anyone who’s not familiar with it, Quora is a sort of free-for-all where anyone can ask or answer questions on any topic under the sun. Some of the questions are blatantly absurd, but there are many that are really reflective of the lack of understanding in the world at large about mental illness.
Some general observations:
- People seem very eager to attribute asshole behaviour to personality disorders they “diagnose” in others, in particular narcissistic personality disorder. There seems to be a lack of awareness that while people with narcissistic personality disorder may exhibit asshole behaviour, by no means do all assholes have narcissistic (or any other) PD. There is also much discussion about the psychoanalytic concept of narcissistic supply from these various wannabe Freuds.
- Aside from believing they can diagnose those around them, a lot of people think they should be able to self-diagnose mental illness. Really, what on earth do we need health professionals for when we can just do a quiz on the internet?
The real gems come in people’s exact wordings:
- “Is shyness a mental illness?”
- “Are patients of psychiatrists considered to be legal persons just as much as anyone else?”
- “How do you beat a person with BPD at their own game?”
- “Why do some people like being depressed?”
- “Is it possible someone with BPD will fake mental illnesses like depression to get attention from anyone?”
- “Is it normal for a depressed person to not want to feel better, and to actively make themselves worse?”
- “Can depression, if left untreated, lead to schizophrenia?”
- “Do people with BPD believe their own lies?”
- “Is criminal behaviour a byproduct of mental illness?”
- “Can 2 people with bipolar disorder be around each other?”
- “Why is it wrong to say mental illness doesn’t exist?”
- “Is hate a mental illness?”
Seems like we’ve got a long way to go in educating people about mental illness and challenging stigma. I try to answer those questions I can find on Quora that contain a glimmer of reasonableness, but sometimes those are few and far between. The truly ignorant I’m inclined to think are a bit of a lost cause. I just hope that the lack of awareness on Quora is not actually reflective of the world at large, because that would mean we have a LOT of work to do.
You can find a follow-up to this post here.
There’s more on mental illness stigma on the Stop Stigma page.