Americans show little tolerance for mental illness despite growing belief in genetic cause

August 29, 2008,

A new study by University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Jason Schnittker shows that, while more Americans believe that mental illness has genetic causes, the nation is no more tolerant of the mentally ill than it was 10 years ago.

The study published online in the journal Social Science and Medicine uses a 2006 replication of the 1996 General Social Survey Mental Health Module to explore trends in public beliefs about mental illness in America, focusing in particular on public support for genetic arguments.

Prior medical-sociology studies reveal that public beliefs about mental illness reflect the dominant mental-illness treatment, the changing nature of media portrayals of the mentally ill and the prevailing wisdom of science and medicine.

Schnittker's study, "An Uncertain Revolution: Why the Rise of a Genetic Model of Mental Illness Has Not Increased Tolerance," attempts to address why tolerance of the mentally ill hasn't increased along with the rising popularity of a biomedical view of its causes. His study finds that different genetic arguments have, in fact, become more popular but have very different associations depending on the mental illness being considered. "

In the case of schizophrenia, genetic arguments are associated with fears regarding violence," Schnittker said. "In fact, attributing schizophrenia to genes is no different from attributing it to bad character — either way Americans see those with schizophrenia as 'damaged' in some essential way and, therefore, likely to be violent. However, when applied to depression, genetic arguments have very different connotations: they are associated with social acceptance. If you imagine that someone's depression is a genetic problem, the condition seems more real and less blameworthy: it's in their genes, they're not weak, so I should accept them for who they are."

Schnittker's study also shows that genetic arguments are associated with recommending medical treatment but are not associated with the perceived likelihood of improvement.

"While the stigma surrounding mental illness has not diminished, the rate of treatment for psychiatric disorders has increased," Schnittker wrote. "The culture surrounding mental illness has become more treatment-focused with direct-to-consumer advertising of psychiatric medications now a mainstay of popular media."

According to Schnittker's research, genetic arguments have, in fact, increased public support for medical treatment but at the same time aren't clearly associated with improvements in overall tolerance levels. The study explores tolerance in terms of social distancing: unwillingness to live next door to a mentally ill person, have a group home for the mentally ill in the neighborhood, spend an evening socializing with a mentally ill person, work closely with such a person on the job, make friends with someone with a mental illness or have a mentally ill person marry into the family.

Source: University of Pennsylvania

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8 comments

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agg
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2008
"The study explores tolerance in terms of social distancing: unwillingness to live next door to a mentally ill person, have a group home for the mentally ill in the neighborhood, spend an evening socializing with a mentally ill person, work closely with such a person on the job, make friends with someone with a mental illness or have a mentally ill person marry into the family."

This is politically correct CRAP!
It goes against rules of survival to do any of those things. I'll leave it up to Schnittker to go snuggle up to a pants pissing derelict homeless person.
superhuman
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2008
Why the Rise of a Genetic Model of Mental Illness Has Not Increased Tolerance


And why was it supposed to?

Mentally ill can't be expected to follow social norms, they are perceived as completely unpredictable and that is why general population (myself included) is afraid of them.
Source of the illness is not relevant.
paulo
3 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2008
let's hope neither of the above discover later in life that a regressive gene causes them to endure a period of 'pants pissing' dereliction.

My awakening to the reality of mental illness occurred when I saw a very ill homeless man - severe tourette's, facial sores, etc, stop ranting and raving when approached on the street by a clean-cut business man. They conversed for several minutes, as though there was nothing unusual about the situation, in fact it looked like they were old friends discussing the weather. They then exchanged pleasantries, and the businessman went on his way, and the homeless man returned to his paranoid ranting.

If you know the cause of mental illness you can treat it, and perhaps return some of these social outcasts to a better life.

The only mental illness seems to me to be in the society that regards these people as sub-human, or beyond help.

agg
3 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2008
So, since I've some slight risk in the long term of "pants pissing dereliction", I should wholeheartedly embrace their kind and put everything worked for to date at risk. I'll p pass on that one. Rather, I'll continue working to be a "fit" member of society and if the opportunity arises, I'll tour the country by train eating sweet beans cooked over sterno and drinking whiskey.
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Sep 01, 2008
In fact, attributing schizophrenia to genes is no different from attributing it to bad character


Is there no other type of character? Our physical bodies are all we are, the arangments of atoms and the genes we carry bear the mark of our personality. There is no distinction between what we should be genetically and what you are brought up to be. It is bullshit to think that you can treat a schizophrenic with the same poise as you do one who is suffering depression. One is may be dangerous, the other not whether it be because of their genes or their upbringing.
COCO
not rated yet Sep 02, 2008
with a socio-path as executive there is hope for upward mobility - that is a good thing.
doubledown21
1 / 5 (1) Sep 02, 2008
Agg, if being an a-hole whose reservation in hell has just been confirmed constitutes "working to be a 'fit' member of society," then mission accomplished.

This begs the question: Which is worse, one who can't control him or herself and is mentally ill solely by accident, or one who is a hateable jerk and behaves so intentionally?

I pity one who behaves in such boorish nonsense intentionally while being completely cognizant of the fact that survival of the fittest is manifesting itself in yet another way.
smiffy
not rated yet Sep 05, 2008
I judge as I find.

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