Mental Health & Manners

Mental Health & Manners

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:

  1. Do not understand mental health conditions, and;
  2. 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.

mental health, manners - a girl and grey

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.

Sharni xo

*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. 

19 thoughts on “Mental Health & Manners”

  • completely agree sharni! i have family that suffer with mental illness and unfortunately a lot of people don’t understand how it effects people and they don’t really care to learn either.

    sorry you had to deal with someone like that xx

    • Thanks for your comment Rachel! It’s insane how people get away with not learning about mental illness – it should be taught in earlier learning so this kind of thing doesn’t happen! xo

    • Thanks Daisy! It got much, much better – especially after the outpouring of support I’ve received from everyone online. I love this community. xo

    • Omg I know! I think that’s what shocked most people – especially when the words were coming from a female University student. Why aren’t manners a pre-requisite for tertiary education?

  • Sorry to hear this happened to you Sharni. It’s amazing in this day and age that people like her still don’t understand mental illness and it’s implications. It’s a scary and isolating thing to go through. Hope you have a good night (or try to anyway!) xx Roxane

  • There are always people in this world that just aren’t nice people, and unfortunately you had to be in contact with one of them today. I hope you’re okay and have managed to exhale it, karma comes round in the end.

    She’s an awful being if she thinks it’s okay to speak to anyone like that. I’ve got your back all the way from London!

  • I love this post and I’m so glad you shared it and spoke up in your class. I have suffered depression on and off for many years, while I’m mostly out of the woods now (thanks to my beautiful partner mostly who builds me up at all the right times). But so many times I was questioned for being sad, or down, and felt like I had to constantly justify or have some deep reason about why I was sad. It’s wrong and I hate that people make you feel like what you’re feeling is wrong. It’s a serious issue that faces so many people and we should never feel like we have to justify or share those personal feelings if we don’t want to. When the time is right and when we trust someone we will. No, it’s not always an excuse for our actions, but it really does skew our perceptions..
    Thank you for sharing this 💕💕

    Laura || xx

    • Ugh the justification is the worst part! And the underestimation of the hold depression has on a person. ‘Cheer up!’ / ‘Calm down!’ are examples of the dialogue surrounding these mental illnesses. I’m so glad you’ve got a supportive partner – mine is amazing too. I think when suffering from these illnesses, support is ESSENTIAL. Thanks for your comment Laura, and for opening up about your struggles. Makes me so happy to have this online connection with lovely people like you! xo

  • She sounds fairly young, inexperienced and just plain rude. She was offended because you upended her and she’s not used to that. She is just a silly little thing that the world hasn’t got a hold of yet. It will… And when it does… She’ll remember you. You handled it well.

    • I’m one of the more mature-aged people in my class (I say mature-aged lightly: I’m 24, and the rest are 18-20) so I do think some of her words can be attributed to naivety. I hope she’s learnt that you can’t speak like that in the real world, and hopefully her brain develops a little more before she decides to speak out so aggressively again. Thanks for your support Denise xo

  • I’m glad you stood up for yourself!! That’s not easy to do in the first place in a setting like that. Her response is awful and definitely defensive. It drives me crazy how people talk and respond to mental illness. Just because they are ignorant and have no understanding. Stay strong and thank you for sharing!

    xx Cherie

  • Man that’s crazy! I’ve come across some interesting people during my time at Uni who have done similar things. It always shocks because I often think if you’ve chosen to come to university, and study law like I did, I would think your mind would be a little more open and accepting of other possibilities and opinions and yet some people seem completely unwilling to budge from their point of view or even give consideration or acknowledgement to other people’s views, which is sad because I think those people will learn and grow less in life. I want say good on you for stating your opinion and not being afraid to do and I hope this one bad experience which I’m sure only encompasses the small minority of people at universities doesn’t stop you from letting people hear your opinion in the future 🙂

    Amy //

    • I think having an open mind at University is essential – especially since everyone has such a different background! I usually encounter this kind of situation with mature aged students who are very vocal about their beliefs on race, immigration and gender equality, but never before from a young female student! I give her props for having the courage to speak her mind but I also think the way in which she turned the conversation into an accusatory stance made every single person in the room uncomfortable. Hopefully the next few years of University education changes the way she deals with expressing her beliefs! Thanks for your support Amy! Means so much xo

  • I get so angry and the ignorance of some people, but at the same time, I would have just said ‘yes actually, any other personal questions you’d like to ask?’. I’ve called someone out before when they have made a joke about mental illness and they’ve asked me why I’m so bothered, or ‘how would you know?’, because it’s the only way those ignorant people will learn what’s ok and when they need to keep their mouth shut.

    It sounds like this girl just needs to educate herself and if she had asked in a less aggressive way, I wouldn’t see a problem with it. But to make it out as though it’s an accusation is ridiculous, she needs to pip down haha

    Cat x

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