This essay declares that mental illnesses can result to onset of social problems where the subjects become violent and irrational. The arena of mental illnesses is rich with myths, misunderstandings, and negative stereotypes. This yields stigma, discrimination, and isolation of people, who are mentally ill.
This paper discusses that there are three distinct explanations of mental illnesses. The first includes the medical model whereby mental illnesses are perceived as a disease with physiological causes. The second is deviance approach whereby mental illnesses emanate from the manner in which people with mental illnesses are treated. The third is the social approach that holds that mental illness is not necessarily a disease, but a way of labelling people as being in need of “treatment” and isolation. The precise causes of mental illnesses are unknown, although, deep research in the area has brought scientists closer to the answers. Just like physical illnesses, mental illnesses are biological in nature. Similarly, elements such as poverty and stress have a strong impact on development of mental illnesses. Mental illness and physical illnesses have interconnection as physical illnesses have a powerful, emotional component. Mental illnesses are framed differently in different cultures; some view it as a form of possession while others view it as an illness. The distinction between mental and physical illnesses cannot be demarcated purely in terms of the causes of the condition. Whereas there are no clear-cut causes of mental illnesses, it is obvious that a lot of non-psychological factors play a crucial role. For instance, there is a strong correlation between a person’s genetic make-up, and chances of development of mood or psychotic disorders. Conversely, psychological factors such as stress have a strong relation to enhanced predisposition to physical illnesses (O’Connor 2002, p.4). There are two key sociological approaches to the study of mental illnesses; the positivist approach and interactionist approach. Positivist Approach The positivist or functionalist approach to mental illnesses matches with the medical definitions of mental illnesses objectively or as a disease. The approach explores the distribution of mental illnesses among diverse groups within the society and seeks to ascertain its causes. This approach examines the mental illnesses in terms of the social organization and the position of individuals within the social structure (Aneshensel & Phelan 1999, p.4). Social judgments on deviance arise from societal gender stereotypes. In society, women are stereotyped as being weak and passive; thus, when deviant or aggressive, it is most likely to be interpreted as irrational and in need of psychiatry treatment. Men’s deviance, on the other hand, is most probably to be seen as intentional and dangerous, and hence, their behaviours are inclined to be labelled as criminal rather than mentally ill (Walker 2006, p.71). Interactionists perceive stereotyping as the cause of the increased rates of mental illnesses among stereotyped groups such as women, young people, or racially discriminated groups. The stereotyped groups are likely to be labelled as dangerous by the police and the courts, and will most probably be referred to psychiatric assessments.