Carstens: Mentally disabled need to be heard

Courtney Carstens

Giving special consideration to particular groups in the United States has been a very important factor throughout this country’s recent history. We have witnessed the Black Lives Matters campaign, the LGBTQ community and many other movements that have taken place in order to get some sort of action pushed by government or just to be simply recognized. But by shining the spotlight on these groups we are forgetting about another very important group — those struggling with mental illnesses.

The mentally disabled have disorders that are defined by as “health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood and/or behavior that are associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Mental disorders contribute to a host of problems that may include disability, pain or death.” This group is not always easily identified.

This particular community needs to be heard not only for themselves but for others in our society. While facilities and treatments have greatly improved since the early 1900s, people who struggle with a mental illness need to be protected and, most importantly, understood just as much as individuals in the LGBT and Black Lives Matter organizations.

Whether we would like to admit it, a good percentage of adult Americans have at one point fallen into the category of not being mentally stable. A total of 43.8 million adults in the United States experience a mental illness during the year, according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness. These numbers include those who suffer from major types of depressive episodes, which estimates to roughly 16 million people, as well as rare disorders such as schizophrenia, which only only affect 1.1 percent of the population.

Pointing out that having this high of a number of mentally disabled individuals in the United States is an issue seems obvious, but we seem to give more attention to groups that can better advertise themselves. People do not think to include this large group of individuals in the realm of social justice because mental disabilities cannot be seen physically.

We should not only worry and advocate for this group because a large portion of society has been categorized in it but because the mistreatment of it causes damage to our society. Serious mental illness cases that are not treated properly cost Americans about $193.2 billion in lost earnings every year. This is not something we can take lightly.

We are always so considerate of people of different races because we are afraid of being called racist. We are always so considerate of people of different sexual orientation because we are afraid of being called homophobic. While those names are appropriate in certain situations, what do we call those who make fun of the mentally disabled? 

Mental illness is hard to understand if people don’t educate themselves or others. I personally know people who have suffered from mental illnesses and struggle every day. But looking from the outside, the average person would never know these struggles.

The mentally disabled need to be advocated for so their rights are protected as much as people of color or people of another sexual orientation. They need a voice, but most importantly they need to be considered in legislative and executive matters.