How to deal with a new culture of violence

July 3, 2021 0 Comments

The idea that we can stop violence and prejudice by treating it like a disease or a disability is a myth, a study has found.

In an experiment carried out at the University of Oxford, the researchers used data from more than 1,500 people with and without mental health problems to see how people responded to a range of different attitudes to mental health.

It found that people who believed violence was an illness or disability were more likely to see mental health issues as a problem that could be overcome with treatment, whereas people who thought mental health was not a problem at all were more inclined to think that it was possible to overcome it.

“Our results suggest that people do not view mental health as a disease,” said lead author Professor David Nutt.

“It is simply a normal response to life in a world that often stigmatises and marginalises people with mental health challenges.”

People often talk about mental health and their ability to control it as if it were a disability, but they are in fact responding to the reality of life in society, and it is a disability that is usually associated with being on the receiving end of violence.

“So, the way that people respond to mental illness is not to treat it as a disability but to treat people as individuals, rather than as a condition.”

Prof Nutt said there was a real danger that people would respond to violence and racism with violence and other forms of discrimination and abuse, rather as they did to other social problems.

“We need to make sure that we recognise the difference between violence and disability and to work towards the development of better policies that recognise that people with a disability have different needs and different rights than other people,” he said.

“And we also need to think about the way in which we understand the meaning of mental health.”

Professor Nutt also highlighted that the way people respond can be quite subjective, and that people can respond in ways that can be harmful or even dangerous to people with disabilities.

“The key point here is that the idea that it is possible to treat mental health with treatment is often based on the belief that people have a disability and therefore it is not a disability at all,” he added.

“In fact, people who are mentally ill have very low rates of mental illness, and we know from research that many people who do have mental illness do not respond to treatment, but people with disability respond in a different way to treatment.”

Prof Nancy O’Brien, of the University’s Centre for Mental Health Research, said the results showed that people had an obligation to think differently about mental illness and its treatment.

“It is an incredibly challenging and nuanced topic,” she said.

“We do not want to see a society that has a lack of understanding of the issues around mental health, and mental health is a complex subject that has been largely ignored by the mainstream media and public health system.”

Professor O’Donnell said it was important to remember that mental health had been part of the public discourse for decades, and the way we thought about mental wellbeing was changing.

“As more and more people understand that mental illness can be complex, that it affects people’s relationships, their mental health can be influenced by that, and often in our public discourse it has been framed in a way that is not helpful or helpful to people who have mental health difficulties,” she added.