The normality trap

I remember taking a bus to London Bridge when, after a few stops, a woman got on who seemed to move with a subtle but twitchy disregard for her surroundings. She found herself a seat among the Saturday shoppers and divided her time between looking out the window and responding to invisible companions, occasionally shouting at her unseen persecutors.

By East Street, the bus was empty.

You’ve probably encountered fellow travellers who are strikingly out of the ordinary, sometimes quite distressed, scattered among the urban landscape where they seem to have a social forcefield around them that makes crowds part in their presence.

If you’ve ever worked in a hospital or support service for people with psychological or neurological difficulties, you’ve probably met lots of people who are markedly out of step with the mundane rules of social engagement.

They seem to talk too loud, or too fast, or too much. They can be full of fantastical things or fantasies. They may be afraid or angry, difficult or disengaged or intent on rewind-replay behaviours. Their dress can be notable for its eccentricity or decay.

So why don’t we see people like these in anti-stigma campaigns?

The stigma campaigns in the UK seem to be full of those portraying the ‘acceptable’ face of mental illness ie articulate/middle class/presentable - people you can see as being on the road to recovery. The ‘you wouldn’t know on first glance they were mentally ill’ types. These are easy to show positivity towards but what about those who are more obviously mentally ill and not likely to make a quick recovery or to recover at all?

Society caring about those would show how much public attitudes to mental illness have improved…

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I also live in the UK and completely agree with you, I follow anti stigma campaigns on Facebook etc and they only post things that are acceptable to general society. Bipolar is getting there; Stephen Fry and other celebrities help with that. Depression and anxiety is becoming common knowledge in the anti stigma campaigns. Eating disorders are very common with females through fashion, knowledge of it with men is different, even though I’ve known men with it it’s not something of common knowledge; mostly portrayed as middle class girls.

Schiz and psychosis is still the taboo, only portrayed when a criminal is diagnosed. Sometimes some brave soul stands out, one of my friends form hospital did an animation for one of the charities ‘psychosis is not a badger’. I’ve read articles but they are rare. Because society still needs a category to blame and shun when it comes to mental illness. When I’ve had public episodes people avoid me like I’m diseased, of course it’s not until afterwards I see this but it hurts, I wouldn’t know what would happen if someone showed compassion, I wouldn’t attack anyone but the heckles etc just made it worse as when you can’t tell what’s real, it’s not very helpful. I think if someone was kind it would help.

I think more awareness should be made. Yes sometimes people with mental illness kill or harm people but not as much in comparison to the amount of people deemed mentally competant and well kill or harm people.

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As a global western society the ‘normal’ way of appearing and behaving is very much out of step or based on fantasy and myth. I rarely know of someone who is thin, has bleach white perfect teeth, dresses in spotless wrinkle free clothing, appears friendly and approachable. Western society has held on to the 1950’s way of portraying the perfect individual. Most of the people I come across are the opposite of the stereotypes, the film, commercial and sitcom world portray - I know of a lot of overweight, sloppy, unapproachable busy people with bad teeth and hair or no hair.
TV land ‘Normal’ is usually very caucasian, Christian, middle class and average. This is not the society in which we live in - sorry folks


Speaking of stigma, a girl from New Zealand once asked me what I wished to do with my life and I told her that I’d like to help people with mental illness in some fashion and she said “you want to HELP them?!?!”
She was utterly shocked at that, as if the mentally ill are not a population to be helped but put away somewhere out of sight so as not to bother the sensibilities of the so called normal people.

The thing I find most strange is that when I mention Mental Illness, people do seem shocked, or a bit stand off. They do look a bit tense.

I have seen this reaction in many people. But then when I break it down, and I say, “You know, Autism numbers haven’t decreased, as more people age, alzheimer’s numbers grow, ADD, ADHD is still in the class room”

Then people have to stop and think. Then I hear people say, "Well, I do have a cousin, a grandma, a friends son who is suffering.

I think we’ve separated people so much that they forget that mental illness is a lot more common then the media portrays. Also I’ve been seeing this odd split where some people don’t see Alzheimer’s as a mental illness, nor autism or ADHD or OCD. It seems these conditions have been sort of cleaned up and packaged differently. It also feels like Bipolar is sort of on the verge of repackaging in it’s own way.

Some of me is a bit angry that my brother who has been fighting SZ longer and harder seems to get less help then my other brother who just got diagnosed as bipolar. I’m hoping it’s a sign of the times. My brother with SZ was diagnosed 12 years ago. My brother with Bipolar was diagnosed last month. Hopefully the difference in resources available and outreach are an indication of 12 years of progress.

Thank you for letting me post.


Another thing that I am noticing and have noticed is that most people have not heard of the term schizoaffective disorder, they really ought to do away with this diagnosis. Most people know of schizophrenia and bipolar - schizoaffective is a foreign word to them and adds to the confusion. I tell people that I have bipolar and schizophrenia, this does make it clear and usually avoids confusion


It was ONLY this last year that I’ve even come across the term Schizoaffective Disorder in a book and even then it was a two page “bridge” between Schizophrenia and Bipolar.

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Sadly i think, or at least it was my experience, that there’s an initial flurry over several years to help and then if you don’t make that recovery it all rather tails off. You are reduced to 6 month appointments and very little in between and hopefully maintenance on meds.

I find even on forums like this you have to explain the technical differences between bipolar/psychotic depression and schizoaffective and still often people don’t get it.

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when people come back from war, do you ever see the ones without limbs, or burnt, or disfigured…
society does not like the mentally ill, the disabled, the different…it shocks us ,and makes us uncomfortable…
humanity is fundamentally flawed, our society is decaying , our values are immoral…
take care


Tonight-I saw Barbara walters do an interview with the father of that young man who shot all those people in Santa Barbara. I`m still not sure what was up with this kid-but the one thing good about this story ( if there is such a thing ) is that the father said he was going to try to do something about the mental health system. " There are too many holes in the mental health system." To me, yes, there is a still a stigma to be brought down-but there is a buzz around the mental health system lately and it feels like a good buzz