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:
Weird and wild questions
- “Are patients of psychiatrists considered to be legal persons just as much as anyone else?”
- “Is criminal behaviour a byproduct of mental illness?”
- “Do psychiatric drugs cause chemical castration?”
- “Is hate a mental illness?”
- “Would mental health checks once every 5 years for gun owners help prevent the mass shootings epidemic?”
- “Should we not allow those with mental health histories to drive, since they may run over someone?”
- “Why do some people like being depressed?”
- “Is it normal for a depressed person to not want to feel better, and to actively make themselves worse?”
- “Can 2 people with bipolar disorder be around each other?”
- “How is a bipolar manipulative behavior treated?”
- “Does depression lead to materialism?”
- “Is depression just sad narcissism?”
- “People with no real problems to tackle usually get depressed. Is depression a disease whose first symptom is laziness?”
- “Do people with BPD believe their own lies?”
- “How do you beat a person with BPD at their own game?”
- “Is it possible someone with BPD will fake mental illnesses like depression to get attention from anyone?”
- “When a person who’s schizophrenic looks in a mirror can they sometimes see the other other personalities? How different do they actually look?”
- “Can depression, if left untreated, lead to schizophrenia?”
- “Why are schizophrenics so reluctant to take their medicine when doing so would make them ‘normal’?”
- “Are schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder a side effect of demonic possessions?”
- “It seems like a lot of untreated people with severe schizophrenia eat out of the garbage, are unclean, and lacking sleep, but do not get sick like well people probably would. Do people with schizophrenia have stronger immune systems than most people?”
Out there answers
To a question about the maximum number of psychiatric diagnoses a person can have: “When a person enters mental psychosis I’m pretty sure their mind is so fragmented that they’ve pretty much got it all: ocd, npd, psychopath, sociopathy, bpd, anxiety, depression, split personality (definitely) and whatever else you could think of they have a little hint of. But a number? I’d say 17.”
Q: “Do you think it’s cowardice to think that people with borderline personality disorders are all evil?”
A (the most frightening one out of several): “Do you understand that the Personality Disordered person is the coward?These people refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and constantly manipulate others to exploit them for their resources, precisely because they are COWARDS. The PD’ed person uses all sorts of tools, techniques to avoid the effort it takes to exhibit and exercise conscience towards others and themselves in the home and in society.”
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 more on mental illness stigma on the Stop the Stigma page.
A Brief History of Stigma is the upcoming new release from Mental Health @ Home Books. It looks at the nature of stigma, the contexts in which it occurs, and how to challenge it most effectively.
Visit the book page for tips on how to be an effective advocate.