What do you think of the Joker's portrayal of mental illness?

I really don't like when media perpetuates the stereotype that mental illness is something to be feared.

Most people with a mental illness are no more likely to commit violent crimes than anyone else. In fact, only three to five percent of violent acts can be attributed to someone living with a serious mental illness, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

I also hate, when a crime does happen to be committed by someone with a mental illness, some people will explain it away as, "He or she was crazy! That's why they did it!" Like last year, with the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that killed 31 people. President Trump's response: "Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun." (Hate, yes. Mental illness, no.)

A lot of people have a mental illness, myself included. That doesn't mean we are running around, harassing or stabbing or murdering or raping people. If anything, people with a severe mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the VICTIM of violent acts than the general population, not the other way around, and are more likely to hurt THEMSELVES than to hurt anyone else.

As Twitter user @Oxleythebeardog tweeted (regarding an incident of a woman harassing strangers), "Please don't bring mental illness into this conversation. Nearly half of all Americans experience mental illness throughout their lifetime, and the vast majority of us aren't like this."

In the movie Joker, which was recently nominated for 11 Academy Awards, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin
Phoenix) shows symptoms of schizophrenia, depression and pseudobulbar affect, a condition which can cause uncontrollable laughter or crying in inappropriate situations.

Psychiatrist Vasilis K. Pozios told USA Today, "It's like Fleck went on his killing spree because he is 'crazy.' That's the conclusion audiences come to, which is unfortunate. It reinforces perceptions people might have which are way overblown."

But, despite the controversy, I am glad that the movie opened up a dialogue about mental illness. Like Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, I didn't particularly agree with the portrayal of mental illness but still, it got people to TALK about it, which is half the battle in raising awareness.

And, for the most part, I did enjoy Joker. While it got some things wrong about mental illness, I do think it did a great job at raising awareness of a few key issues:

1. The importance of medication
I am a strong proponent of medication when it helps relieve the symptoms of mental illness. For me, it's been a life changer, and no one should have to deal with a mental illness without some kind of treatment. For the character Arthur Fleck, he was taking seven different medications for his mental illnesses and, although still showed symptoms, was relatively stable. It wasn't until he stopped taking the medications that he really started experiencing hallucinations and, ultimately, became the famous Batman villain.

Although it won't make you go on a murderous rampage like the Joker, you still should never stop taking your medication cold turkey like he did. Some of the withdrawal side effects (like I said before, none of the side effects include murder) are:

• Flu-like symptoms
• Disturbing thoughts
• Worsened symptoms
• Insomnia and nightmares
• Anxiety
• Headache
• Vomiting

2. The lack of mental health resources for the under or uninsured population
As someone who worked as a clown who held up signs to get people to come into businesses, Arthur probably didn't have insurance, or, at the very least, very crappy insurance. So, he was in need of government assistance in order to receive the treatment he needed for his mental illnesses.

About an hour into the movie, Arthur's social worker told him that the government had taken away the program's funding. As the social worker said to Arthur when she broke the news, "They don’t give a sh*t about people like you, Arthur. And they really don’t give a sh*t about people like me either." And so, Arthur had no one to counsel him and no where to go to get his medication as he couldn't afford to pay for it out of pocket.

2018 survey revealed that mental health services in the U.S. are insufficient, despite high demand.

"There is a mental health crisis in America. My experience establishing mental health clinics across the country, coupled with this study, shows that more needs to be done to give Americans much needed access to mental health services,” Cohen Veterans Network President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Anthony Hassan told the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“If we want to save lives, save families and save futures, we must reimagine our behavioral health system and take concrete steps to improve consumers’ ability to find the care they need, when they need it, and on their terms.”

3. Do not discriminate against people with a mental illness (or, obviously, anyone else!)
Earlier in my post, I talked about how people with mental illness are more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator. And, at the beginning of Joker, Arthur was the victim. He was beat up in an alley and on the subway and mocked for his uncontrollable laughter, even after presenting a card that stated, "Forgive my laughter: I have a condition." I believe it was this constant abuse, not his mental illnesses, that contributed to the Joker snapping.

If you mock someone, you really don't know how much of an affect it has on them. Each cruel word chips away at a person's self worth. As someone who was personally bullied in middle school and had emotionally abusive relationships, I can tell you that those words can stay with you every day, no matter how long ago it happened.

If we were all just kind to others, this world would be such a better place!

Joe Piazza, Detroit-based actor, expressed it best in a Facebook post: "The message is clear, and it’s simple — learn to be kind to one another. The representation of Joker in this movie represents all of us (some more than others). It shows what it’s like to feel like nobody cares for you, nobody listens to you, nobody helps build you up, nobody shows support or encouragement."

"I think this film needs to be seen. Not only for how it was done, but to maybe change your own life and attitude towards other people around you."

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