The Stigma of Mental Illness and Race in America by Olivia

October 17, 2019


The Stigma of Mental Illness and Race in America

Although America is looked at as a melting pot and an accepting nation we have always kept it in the back of our minds that this isn’t exactly true. Americans truly are not as accepting as others think. People with mental illness, physical illness or people of different races and cultures are treated as less than those who are “Perfect”. In this argument we will take a look at different articles, books, and movies that take a look into how people of different races, cultures, or people with mental illness and physical illness are treated in the united states. 

The movie Joker that came out this year is a huge controversy in the United States right now. It focuses on the life story of a beloved movie villain, Joker. The story follows the life of Aurthur Fleck who struggles with PBA caused by brain trauma from when he was little. PBA stands for Pseudobulbar affect which causes uncontrollable outbursts of laughter or crying at “inappropriate times”. Due to his mental illness Fleck is judged by others and made fun of because of his uncontrollable laughter. He feels as if he is less than human because others treat him that way. He cannot get a good job and instead has to work as a party clown because that is the only job he can get. However, he is fired from his job due to his boss not understanding his mental illness. This leads to Fleck snapping and abandoning his medications and slowly going insane and turning to violent tendencies which eventually leads him to become Joker (Joker).  This really shows how people with mental illness are treated as less because others dont understand their mental illness and so they are scared of them and do not give them jobs or even a chance to prove themselves. Americans look at people with mental illness as less because they have to take medications to be “normal”. “Far more than any other type of illness, mental disorders are subject to negative judgements and stigmatization” (Rössler). This quote shows that people with mental illness are looked at as violent and scary just because they are different, but having a mental illness doesn’t make you violent or scary, you’re human too and you should have all the rights as all the other Americans but, in the end, you don’t. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian is a book about a young Native American boy, Arnold Spirit, that transfers to an all white school. It talks about his struggles going to his new school and shows how her is treated as less than the white kids just because he is Indian (Alexie). A lot like the movie Joker this book talks about how people who are different are treated as less, however, this book talks about race instead of mental illness. The struggle with race and mental illness are very similar, both have struggles with finding a good job, keeping a job, and being treated the same as “normal Americans”. Just as people with mental illness, people of a different race can be looked at as violent and scary just because they look different. Arnold and the rest of the Native Americans are looked at as violent by the other Americans due to stereotypes about their race just like how Fleck is looked at as violent because of his PBA.

In the end we can see that all Americans are not treated the same despite what we are told. Even if you are considered an American you might be treated differently due to mental illness or being of a different race. We can see this through many different articles, books, and even movies that have been made throughout the years.

Works cited

Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Boston, New York, Little, Brown and Company, 2007.  

Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips, performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Warner Brothers 2019.

Rössler, Wulf. “The Stigma of Mental Disorders” NCBI, 28 Jul. 2016, Accessed 15 Oct. 2019.