The findings show that people might be aware on some level, but either they’re not understanding the full picture or despite the knowledge they can’t learn to accept and tolerate people with mental illness.
“As those facts come out, I think they begin to challenge peoples’ perspectives about what the causes of mental illness are,” Kennard said. “Why that it hasn’t caught on more I think is part of our challenge…to educate the public about those facts and about the experience of people with mental illness and their families.”
People could still have prejudices against those with mental illness because of a variety of factors, he said.
“One certainly can’t discount the way, by and large people with mental illnesses are portrayed in the media,” Kennard said, including referring those with mental illness and “crazy” and inaccurate presentations in movies.
Also, there are rare instances where a person with a mental disorder commits a crime and is violent, and the media tends to focus on that aspect instead of what happened.
“When people who do see an individual with a mental illness who has some signs of their illness there…it’s unnerving to people,” Kennard said, and what people see in movies can cause some fear as well.
Besides increasing the public’s knowledge, there is also the need to learn how to be comfortable with those who have a mental illness and handle certain situations.
“It’s not unusual that people don’t know,” Kennard said, giving the example of people being aware of epilepsy and not knowing how to deal with a person when an actual seizure happens. “I think mental illness is a little like that too. It’s a hidden disability. Oftentimes when we do see a sign of it, it’s one of those things that we probably should be more aware of.”
For mental disorders like depression, there are some ways people can improve the way they handle the person when they are experiencing symptoms.
Kennard said when family, friends and co-workers know a person has a mental disorder like depression, the best thing to do is ask him beforehand what they can do to help when that person is going through a bad experience with the mental disorder.