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As definitions of mental illness become broader and more well known, people who have depressive symptoms and other moderate mental illnesses are less likely to get a supportive response from friends and family than people who have severe mental illness. So does the widespread diagnosis of mental illness and its subsequent successful treatment actually create less support and sympathy for the sufferer?
Researchers studied interviews conducted with 165 people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression and other severe disorders getting treatment for the first time. Those patients with more common disorders did not get strong reaction from family members or friends. As a result, the support networks were less willing to become caregivers and excuse any deviant behavior that came with their mental illness.
“Perhaps because so many people are diagnosed and subsequently treated successfully, signs of depression do not alarm friend and family members to the same degree as disorders known to severely affect functioning,” said Brea L. Perry, lead author of the report published in the Journal of Health Social Behavior.
Mild depression has become so acceptable that people no longer accept the diagnosis as grounds for taking on a “sick” role.
At the other end of the spectrum, the researchers found that severe mental illness with outwardly recognizable symptoms led to more rejection and discrimination by acquaintances and strangers while simultaneously garnishing more support from family and friends creating a stronger social support system.
“Day-to-day emotional and instrumental support is likely to play a critical role in recovery from mental illness,” explained Perry.
Source: MentalNewsToday, Journal of Health & Social Behavior
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