Breaking the Mental Illness Stigma

  “Well, why don’t you just try focusing on the positives?” “Why can’t you just, be a little happier?” “How are you depressed, your life isn’t that bad?” “Anxiety and depression aren’t real, you just need to feel happier.” “You’re too depressed all the time, it rubs off on us if we spend too much time together.” These are just a small sample of the thoughts and feelings of millions of people around the world who have friends or loved ones with mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. There is a certain, difficult to break stigma that comes with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any other mental illness. Stigmas that surround issues like these are neither beneficial to the sufferers nor those who have friends who suffer from mental illness. The stigmas are the reason that some people feel genuinely uncomfortable around those with depression. They feel as though every last mentally ill person could be at a tipping point, and any word or phrase, something from “you’ve got some ketchup on your shirt,” to “your shirt’s on backwards,” could set them off, spiraling into a deeper depression. And while depression is hardly a one-size-fits-all illness, it’s incredibly important to realize that it’s entirely possible for people to be fully-functioning members of society while they live with otherwise debilitating mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. Some of the most successful people that this planet has seen walk on its earth have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Astronaut Bull Aldrin, talk-show host Ellen Degeneres and billionaire author JK Rowling have been diagnosed with depression, while...

A Brief History of Mental Health Treatment

Mental Health Today If you’re over the age of 18 and live in the United States of America, there is a roughly 18 percent chance that you suffer from some form of anxiety disorder according to the National Institute of Mental Health. With almost one-fifth of the population suffering from a form of anxiety or depression, the proper treatment of the people with these conditions is of paramount importance. Depression and related disorders are, in a way, almost an epidemic in the US, as the disorder continues to sweep its way through people regardless of age, sex, race or any other factors. Regardless of this, the rate of mental illness is still rising. As we’ve written before, studies have shown that the rate of depression and depression-like symptoms is monumentally higher than it was in the 1980s. TIn particular, teenagers are 74 percent more likely to have trouble sleeping and twice as likely to have seen a specialist for mental health issues than those in 1980. These numbers, while alarming, call for improvements and analysis of the treatment of mental health issues, as the need to prioritize and amend them continues to grow. But treatment methodology hasn’t always been viewed this way, and neither have those who suffer from mental illness.   Early Mental Health For a time, mental health disorders ranging from depression and anxiety mentioned above, to schizophrenia and other serious forms of intellectual or developmental disability were not viewed as treatable brain conditions. Instead, in ancient times, some believed that religion or spiritual contact were the only ways to properly cure someone of their illness. Starting...

Why Is the Incarceration Rate so High in the US?

According to commonly cited statistics, the United States has about 5% of the world’s population, but houses 25% of the world’s prison population. Most people agree that this percentage is too high and it has turned into a bipartisan issue to determine how the statistic can be lowered and what are the root causes for the high amount of people incarcerated. Much debate occurs over what caused this high incarceration rate, which has drastically increased since the 1980s. Below are various sources people attribute the high incarceration rate to.   The War on Drugs   Since the 1980s, the United States government has cracked down on drug-related crimes. If someone is found with just a small amount of illegal drugs on their person, they may go to prison for several years, even if they’re a minor. Anyone involved in drug smuggling and production can also be charged at the full level of the crime, even if their role was incredibly small or a one-time involvement. The law has become tougher on drug-related crimes in an effort to reduce drug abuse in the country. Whether or not this method works is a hotly contested issue.   Longer non-violent crimes sentences   In addition to long sentences for drug-related non-violent crime, other non-violent crimes now come with more serious sentences. Recently, California reduced certain non-violent crimes to misdemeanors instead of felonies, which resulted in 2,700 non-violent criminals being released from jail. More and more crimes are being labeled as felonies, which result in longer sentences, even when the crimes themselves are victimless or non-violent.   Trying minors as adults   Another...

The Celebrity Treatment Behind Bars

The life of celebrities, to an outsider or everyday person, seem lavish, filled with glitz, glamor and glory, and far and away better than anything the layman experiences. There are the Hollywood parties, the name-recognition, the status and the endorsements that bring in money with relatively little effort. It’s not all Hollywood living for most celebrities, though. Multiple celebrities have described their status as something they’d give up if given the opportunity, citing paparazzi harassing them at any given opportunity and living a life under a microscope, their every move being documented for the world to see via social media. However, when it comes to breaking the law, being in the public eye can be both a gift and a curse. The curse comes with being in the public eye. Getting a DUI, to a normal person, means serving time behind bars and carrying a criminal record for the next years or few decades, depending on your state and how many prior offenses you carry. If it’s your first offense, there is a reasonable chance that you’ll avoid time spent behind bars and instead be given some combination of a license suspension, a hefty fine and probation. For celebrities, however, even a minor charge means the world will know about your misdeed, with websites like TMZ or E! News constantly covering celebrities who break the law. Being in the public eye may seem like a large drawback of celebrity status, but the potential benefits when it comes to criminal activity may very well outweigh the drawbacks. The fact remains that, according to most, the cells and treatment that celebrities...

Can we Predict (and Sentence For) Future Crimes: Part III

This is the third and final installment of the series by Correctional Medical Care about the potential for risk-assessment based sentencing in the United States. While the role of risk assessment in the justice system is limited thus far, the potential for expansion has opened the eyes of lawmakers and critics of the idea itself. Future Crimes Part III: Last entry  we touched mainly on the analytical tools used in the risk assessment measurement for use in criminal sentencing. While Pennsylvania has already made moves to include the measure in its sentencing procedures, the question of ethics–and of just how predictable recidivism truly is. The idea of using risk assessment to predict recidivism–while catching fire now as risk analysis tools improve–is certainly not a novel idea. A study in the Forums on Corrections Research was published in 1989–that’s 27 years ago now–detailing the predictability of recidivism in inmates. The study, titled “Recidivism is Predictable and Can be Influenced: Using Risk Assessment to Reduce Recidivism,” was one of the first in-depth studies on the ideas of “risk, need and other characteristics” that may contribute to how an inmate could be sentenced, and have their treatment managed. The study looked into the risk factors that were already in high use, and explored the option that many factors, including sex, may not be inherently bad characteristics, but are still risk factors. In the conclusion of the paper, researcher Don Andrews states that his research shouldn’t serve as a definite be all and end all, as it’s a largely limited base of study. Actuarial sciences–the idea of using mathematical assessment to evaluate risk,...

Can We Predict (and Sentence for) Future Crimes: Part II

This is the second of a multi-part series about the potential for risk-assessment based sentencing in the United States. While the role of risk assessment in the justice system is limited thus far, the potential for expansion has opened the eyes of lawmakers and critics of the idea itself.   Future Crimes Part II: Though it may not have the direct preventative powers that were on display in the movie Minority Report or the television show Futurama, right now risk assessment is king when it comes to the possibility of using the future to determine sentencing for those found guilty of crimes in America.    As we discussed in Part I of the “future crimes” two-part series, certain aspects of the criminal justice system in America are already determined in part by risk assessment. Bail, for one, is determined partially by the determination by the judge of whether the accused is likely to commit a crime or flee the country if he or she is released on bail. While this calculation might not be as methodical as some may like, the debates continue within Pennsylvania as the options regarding risk assessment are weighed. Factors similar to those used when determining bail could soon begin becoming tools of use for sentencing in PA, though they have been met with criticism and controversy already. The system will use risk assessment tools that factor in psychological evaluations, family background, demographic information, similar crimes and criminals from the past, and more to spit out a rough estimate of how large the risk of the perpetrator reoffending is.  Some question the ethical concerns of...