Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hollywood and Stigma

Hollywood loves to make movies with crazed killers, suspenseful moments, and plenty of gore. This weekend, the remake of “Prom Night” will be released featuring a knife wielding psychopath who slices and dices his way through a group of screaming teens.

How do we best fight this stigma?

For some, the answer is simply to deny that people with severe mental illnesses, as a group, are any more dangerous than the rest of society. The good news is that such an assertion is fully sustainable for those people with severe mental illnesses who receive effective treatment.

However, for the more than 2,000,000 Americans overcome with a severe mental illness who remain untreated, no such assertion can be made. The plain truth is that people with untreated severe mental illnesses are statistically more dangerous than people without severe mental illness. Does this mean that all people with untreated severe mental illnesses are more violent? Absolutely not, but there is a heightened propensity to harm others (and themselves) that can sometimes lead to headlines and movie scripts.

Therefore, in the long run, the best way to fight the stigma of severe mental illness is to treat it.