I had the most ridiculous experience today and I honestly haven’t been able to get my mind off it since, so here I am ready to write about it and discuss it with you guys.
Today was my first day of classes for Semester 2. This term I’m studying a bit of Criminology alongside my usual Journalism and Public Relations. You know, to spice it up a bit.
Anyway, today I was in my Understanding Crime tutorial – which basically covers anything and everything relating to understanding the act of crime: why people do it, what motivates them and how the justice system is built to deal with those who break the law. It’s very psychologically based, which I love, and today we were kind of being introduced to the course content.
Eventually the teacher got to the topic of the classical and positivist schools of thought regarding crime. Let me break it down for you real quick. Basically, classical theorists regard ALL individuals as rationale beings in total control of their life: a.k.a. they are completely aware of the crime they are committing before, during and after the act has occurred. Classical theory is the original-way of thinking – and came about sometime in the eighteenth century. On the other hand, positivist theorists believe that the root cause of crime is (to a certain degree) outside of the offenders control: it is heavily influenced by psychology – how their brain works, as well as the culture they grew up in, the rules and systems they were taught to adhere to as they developed, as well as their their genetics and familial background. Positivist theory was introduced by Cesare Lombroso in the nineteenth century when…
“He claimed that the dead bodies of criminals revealed that they were physically different than normal people. Specifically, he claimed that criminals have abnormal dimensions of the skull and jaw. Lombroso believed that criminals were born with these traits and did not commit crimes according to free will, as the classical school of criminology had suggested.” Source.
Further research has revealed that the brains of serial killers and the like hold different qualities than those of the general (non-murderous) population. So basically, positivist theory holds more ground in scientific research and is also more open to accepting that everyone is different. It also welcomes the idea that some crimes are committed in the heat of the moment.
We all hold different motivations for our actions. It’s impossible to group the entire population into one theory and call it a day – it just doesn’t work that way.
Anyway, so the teacher asked the class for their opinions, and one girl spoke up – stating that she believed classical theory the whole way. I think the teacher was a bit taken aback because she had literally just stated that classical theory was a bit outdated, but this girl said that all offenders know exactly what they are doing and that every single crime is of pure intent and calculation (which some are – don’t get me wrong – just not all).
I usually don’t speak up in class, and I don’t know why I did today, but I said that I didn’t agree with that, because sometimes people are unaware of what they are doing.
The girl disagreed.
I then asked her – what about people with mental illnesses? Or those on heavy hallucinogenic drugs? Alcohol? There are times when people are so out of touch with their minds that they have no control over what they do.
She called bullshit.
Then the teacher said; what about people with schizophrenia?
The girl – a Law and Criminology student at a University – said (and I quote); “Well, just go to a mental hospital and get some pills.”
I spoke up – because everyone was a bit taken aback – and said “It’s beyond that. And apart from schizophrenia – there are other mental illnesses like bipolar, or even ones as minor as anxiety and depression – that completely warp the sufferers mind. The world is skewed because of their mental illness, so their reality is totally changed. They may not even be aware of what they are doing.”
The teacher agreed with me, and then this girl turned to me and said (in front of twenty other students); “Oh, well how do you know? Do you have a mental illness? Are you depressed? Do you have anxiety?”
Like it was some sort of fucking joke.
I couldn’t believe it. I sat there staring straight ahead, toward the teacher (a PhD student – the poor thing), who stared straight back and nobody really said anything. I don’t know how long I was silent for, but I just didn’t know what to say.
“I don’t want to answer that” sounds dramatic, and unfortunately the shock just froze my brain. Looking back on it now, I should have said “that’s none of your business, is it?” Who knows, she might have even punched me. I can’t believe how brash her voice was… I’m not sure if I was more embarrassed for me or for her.
Anyway, the teacher interrupted the seemingly never-ending silence and reiterated what I had said, to which the girl disagreed upon again, and the teacher just said ‘oh well, we’re all entitled to our opinions.’
I sat there for the remaining hour and a half with a red face and tears threatening to fall out of my eyes at any moment. I was humiliated, and during the rest of the lesson had a few people give me a smile or an assurance, but I couldn’t get past the fact that this girl thought it was okay to ask someone if they had a mental disorder in a public, professional and educational setting.
I usually don’t rant or post negativity on this space, but I wanted to write this post because obviously there are still people in this world who:
- Do not understand mental health conditions, and;
- Do not have basic manners.
I would not sit in a classroom and yell across to another girl asking her bra size. I wouldn’t ask the cashier at my local supermarket how many sexual partners he has had. Heck, I wouldn’t even ask my friends how much they weigh.
Yet some people think it’s okay to ask about another persons mental health. I’m not talking about an “are you okay” that comes from a place of love and concern – I’m talking about another person bringing my mental health up to make a point.
It’s so beyond not okay, and it makes me physically sick.
I’m fairly open on my blog about my struggles with anxiety and depression, as well as my journey with PCOS. I’m okay with it, because it’s on my terms, and I don’t share everything (
like the fact that I might be going bald) because I choose not to. That’s my right.
This girl has never read my blog, doesn’t know my name, has never met me before in her life, and feels comfortable enough to aggressively ask whether I’m feeling depressed in front of my peers. Fuck that.
I’m not ashamed of my mental illness, but for some reason this girl made me feel as though I should be.
I spoke up today because I know how badly mental illness can skew your perception of the world around you. My depression is scary, but my anxiety is terrifying. It turns me from a rational, functioning human being to a paranoid, nervous, harrowed shell of a person, who struggles to get out of bed, let alone drive, work, sleep, live, eat and study. It completely changes how I view myself, as well as those around me and the society I exist in. I over-analyse situations to the point of getting physically ill, and I ruin friendships and relationships with those around me because I’m so fucking paranoid of everything I do.
It’s important to recognise how much a mental illness can effect a persons life – I have great respect for those dealing with manic depression, schizophrenia and bipolar, as well as any and all kinds of anxiety and depression – and I totally understand that sometimes you lose touch with reality and are completely unaware of what you are doing*.
I have zero fucking respect for people with no manners and zero education on something that affects at least twenty percent of the population.
Learn up, or shut up.
*I am in no way stating that I think mental illness is an excuse or reason to commit horrible crimes and damage those around you, but I know that sometimes people need professional help to deal with their mental health if they are in any way a danger to themselves or those around them. Sometimes they do horrible things and don’t even realise a) that they are doing it, or b) that it is wrong.