The Recurring Issue of Poorly Treating Those with Mental Illnesses

“Studies in the United States, Britain, and Ethiopia show people with serious mental illnesses are dying 10 to 20 years earlier.” That’s from an article in Voices of America that I read earlier this evening from a UN:Wire subscription I have. For a world in the 21st century, it never ceases to amaze me how often, and horrifically, people with mental illnesses are treated still. Whether you live in a first world or third world country, whether you live in a tiny town/ village to a large city, the mentally ill are often shunned and/ or neglected.

Those who do make an attempt to aid these people aren’t always doing what they believe to be right. Quite often, those who do suffer from a mental illness are treated as though they are criminals or incapable of performing the same duties as someone who is not mentally ill. In another article written by USA Today, an estimated 80% of those with a mental illness are unemployed, and about 60% actually want to work. However, only about 2/3 of those people are able to hold down a job successfully and still only 2% of the people in the mental health system receive any help at all.

A truly angering story of a man with mental health issues is that of Joe Paraskeva. He was only 20 years old when he decided to voluntarily admit himself to a psychiatric ward in a London hospital back in 2010. After a couple days there, he had a nervous breakdown and attempted to escape from his wing. The only real damage caused to anybody or anything was the door to his room that he tried to burn down with aerosol deodorant and lighting it on fire.

His punishment? Pleading guilty to arson and being sentenced “[in] imprisonment for public protection (IPP), with a minimum requirement of two years in prison but no maximum limit.” With his history of mental health issues and at risk of not behaving because of them he could be sentenced for life according to the article in the Guardian. His mother stated that he doesn’t need prison, “he needs help.”

Joe is just one of many, many examples of those who are treated poorly due to their mental health issues. A solution to help these people rather than punishing them so severely? Studies have shown that including them in day to day activities, chores, or responsibilities in general can act as a great therapy. This Saturday is World Health Mental Day and I encourage you to get involved, if possible, in learning and helping these people. There should be no reason that one has to suffer from human rights violation simply because they suffer from something they can’t control, let alone chose to have.

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