By: Dani Kessel
[Disclaimer: This article discusses mental health topics. I am not a mental health professional. I do not claim to be an expert. However, I have done a lot of studying and research to provide you with the most accurate information possible. If you are struggling with mental illness, please seek out a therapist or psychologist for professional help.]
The Bachelorette is finally back. After quite some time of quarantine and halted production, we’ve started the new season. I was really looking forward to some fun, mindless entertainment. Then, it happened. I know this show can include cheesy, bad entrances; still, who exactly allowed someone to exit the limo in a straitjacket? What made them think that it was appropriate for him to joke that “COVID made me go crazy”?
WHO GAVE THE OKAY?
For a show that claims to care about real issues, why did nobody veto the use of harmful stereotypes and damaging language? I know they have a psychologist on staff. Why didn’t they stop this from occurring on the show?
It isn’t something that can be brushed off. We really need to talk about the detrimental way situations like this perpetuate stigma against the community of folks living with mental illnesses.
Despite what television and movies would have you believe, straightjackets and violent, uncontrollable outbursts against others are NOT the reality of mental illnesses. Long term institutionalization isn’t necessary or appropriate for most people with mental illnesses anymore. Many treatments and medications are available which can help manage the disorders in an outpatient setting. Even in those kinds of facilities**, straitjackets are rarely used. These restraints are seen as cruel and inhumane in most developed countries; and, yet, they are frequently depicted in horror and mystery and suspense movies and television shows.
And then there’s the use of the word crazy. This word is an amalgamation of many different behaviors and symptoms. The common thread though is that they are things people are afraid of. The word often is applied to detachment from reality, dissociation, psychosis, hallucinations, and lack of control. It characterizes mentally ill individuals as dangerous, irrational, unsafe, and unpredictable. This just isn’t true though. People with mental illnesses aren’t significantly more dangerous than anyone else. In fact, they are up to 10 times more likely to be the victim of violent crimes than the general population. They also are more likely to hurt themselves than hurting anyone else. Other demographics even have a higher correlation with violence; still, folks use words like crazy, maniac, psycho, lunatic, mad, and spastic to further perpetuate this incorrectly perpetuated idea.
The Bachelorette entrance combined both these harmful stereotypes into one, furthering the stigma.
For those who would suggest that stigma doesn’t really impact society’s views or the folks living with mental illness, the studies all point towards you being incorrect. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from 2013 established that 75% of parents polled reported they would be uncomfortable with a person suffering from serious mental illness working at their child’s school. In addition, 47% of everyone polled said they would be uncomfortable living next to a mentally ill person. That is nearly half of all people! The study might be seven years old, but the relevance is highlighted by other, more recent findings. A 2017 study showed that internalized stigma can prevent folks from seeking out treatment. A 2018 study indicated university-level students were less likely to take medication, seek out therapy, or use resources if their school perpetuated mental illness stigma. A 2019 study concluded that increased stigma results in increased perceived barriers to treatment. The list goes on and on and on.
All in all, it’s clear that jokes about going crazy while wearing a straitjacket are harmful. We need to hold shows like The Bachelorette to higher standards when it comes to the way they present mental illnesses–especially considering the Bachelor franchise is “reality tv.” The way our media and pop culture views mental health has very serious implications for ourselves and the individuals we love. After all, an estimated 1 in 4 people in the world will experience a mental illness at some point in their life.
Just remember: Stephen Hinshaw, a UC Berkley professor of psychology, said of the issue, “Stigma breeds shame. Stigma breeds silence.”
Thanks for taking the time to read this analysis of mental health stigmas and specifically the Bachelorette premiere blunder. Did you watch the premiere? What was your opinion of the controversial entrance? Tell us in the comments down below!
**Unfortunately, despite the predominant discontinuance of them in psychiatric centers, there is a trend of using straitjackets in holding facilities, juvenile detention, and prisons as punishment and control. This is something we need to change. Nobody deserves to have their agency taken away in this dangerous and torturous way.