Respond to at least two colleagues by reflecting on their take on society’s view of mental disorders and the impact on individuals living with a mental disorder. Explain why you agree or disagree with each of their assessments. What are your thoughts on the examples presented by your colleagues?
Colleague 1: Brooke
As mentioned in the discussion’s introduction, the topic of mental illness has received increased media attention, often directly related to a traumatic event perpetrated by an individual or group, typically plagued with mental illness. Since media clips are often only brief highlights of the event being discussed, the term “mentally ill” is simply attached to the perpetrator with little or no elaboration regarding the individual’s actual diagnosis or history of treatment. To that end, social stigma is a natural consequence of mental illness, having been introduced to the mainstream population through glorified, intense, and attention seeking means.
There are both positive and negative outcomes that come with mental illness being viewed on a grand scale due to media coverage. Mental illness is indeed a bleak reality within society, so its mention to the mainstream population can certainly be viewed as a positive. In other words, since people are hearing the term more frequently, there is an increased awareness which can only lead to increased understanding. However, on the contrary, this global understanding is a process, and the negative stigma attached to mental illness cannot be overlooked. Since mental illness is a complex state, often characterized by comorbid diagnoses, it would be irresponsible to simply group those affected into one category (Krueger and Bezdjian, 2009). Despite this fact, this is often the “takeaway” when the term “mental illness” is mentioned by the media.
The DSM 5 is organized with the intent of helping professionals diagnose more accurately and comprehensively, as it recognizes that mental illness is not typically single dimensional (Krueger and Bezdjian, 2009). The developmental lifespan is evident in each diagnostic category, with the disorder highlighted from childhood through adolescence, adulthood and later adulthood (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). This allows for the diagnosing clinician to determine the presenting characteristics at each stage of life, providing a thorough diagnosis. This becomes increasingly important when the media is highlighting mental illness as a foundational cause of a person’s behavior. In these cases, social workers are in a unique position to educate the mainstream regarding the issue at hand. Teens perpetuating violence, for example, has significantly increased since the infamous school shooting at Columbine, Colorado in 2001. With each case, the term “mental illness” has been attached to the assailant’s name, with no other descriptors or explanations. Perhaps, during these times, macro level clinicians can be assigned to educate the public regarding the diagnosis of the perpetrator, to the extent that confidentiality would allow. As social change agents, modifying a collective, yet inaccurate perception of society, remains an ethical responsibility. Additionally, by addressing widespread views regarding mental illness, the hope is the stigma can be broken down, allowing, most importantly, for those in need to gain access available services and resources.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington,
VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Colleague 2: Jennifer
Society frequently believes that those with mental illness are violent or dangerous. Such stigmas are related to media reports which portray those with mental illness as criminals, evil, or very disabled, and unable to live normal lives (Mental Health Foundation, n.d.). This negative stigma increases discrimination among those with mental illness and increases issues such as social isolation, poor housing, unemployment, or poverty in those who are already at an increased risk for such criteria (Mental Health Foundation, n.d.). Stigma and discrimination traps people in the cycle of illness, can lead to the further perpetuation the mental illness, and leads to further difficulties in one’s ability to effectively participate as an active and contributing member of society (Mental Health Foundation, n.d.). While those who have been diagnosed with mental illnesses are often stereotyped or discriminated against, the same diagnosis is essential in ensuing one is able to obtain the help necessary to not only understand, but effectively treat their psychiatric disorder (Mental Health Foundation, n.d.).
DSM-5 is intended to aid professionals in properly, and more accurately, diagnosing mental illness and strives to establish common language necessary to communicate the characteristics of mental disorders amongst professionals (APA, 3013). The DSM-5 corresponds to the organizational arrangement of disorders planned for ICD-II. The DSM-5 is organized in sequence with the developmental life span and is divided into three sections, with 20 chapters that address specific disorders; section I provides an introduction and information regarding the organizational features of the text, while section II includes diagnostic criteria and codes, section III addresses assessment measures, cultural considerations, a glossary, and conditions that require further study (APA, 2013). Each chapter is arranged based on the common features among each disorder. In understanding that disorders are not single dimensional, the DSM-5 uses a multi-axial system to define disorders (Kruger and Bezdjian, 2009).
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).
Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). The organization of DSM-5. Retrieved on August 31, 2017 from
Krueger, R. F., & Bezdjian, S. (2009). Enhancing research and treatment of mental disorders with
dimensional concepts: Toward DSM-V and ICS-11. World Psychiatry, 8(1), 3-6.
Mental Health Foundation. (n.d.). Stigma and discrimination. Retrieved on August 31, 2017 from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stigma-and-discrimination