When I started working on this topic, I honestly took my time to try to understand if mental illness is an excuse for bad behaviour. Questions kept popping into my head, questions like ‘ If someone has depression, does that make it an excuse for their quick temper and cancellation of plans?’, ‘ If someone has anxiety, does over-drinking alcohol to numb the pain or avoiding social situations, is that an excuse?’. ‘ What of bipolar disorder, does being agitated and irritable serve as an excuse as well?’. Questions like this filled my head until I remembered two novels I read long ago, I don’t remember the titles, but in the first one, the lady was diagnosed with depression, and she used that as an excuse for everything, taking it to her advantage to procrastinate her work projects or get pity from people, often with a ghost smart smile playing on her lips. In the other book, it was about a young couple, so in love and all, until the husband went to war and completely changed, and according to the symptoms he portrayed, it was similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD. He had night terrors, was uncontrollably angry and very irritable.
Comparing these two examples, I got my answer. You see, some people actually have mental illness but tend to abuse it. Some illnesses can drive one to cheat outside their relationships, to hit a loved one, to gain more sympathetic attention from loved ones and forcing them to be nice to you even when you’re pushing them over the edge, to shut out the ones who care, and to blame everyone for your problems. True, sometimes the illness does get the best of us, some days we just want to curl up in bed and do nothing at all, to just shut the phone, be left alone so no one disturbs. Yes, living with a mental illness does have its period of highs and lows, but at the same time, you can’t just expect people to ‘accept’ any behavior simply because you have a diagnosis, there’s a line between abusing the mental illness and the days where you cannot help it getting the best of you.
Speaking more on the abuse of mental health, let’s take a look into the serial killer situation that arises in America from time to time. A serial killer has ended a number of lives, is put on trial and next thing one hears on the news is a chronic case of mental disorder. Now, this is usually biased, for in this case the criminal does a lot of bad things, and the easiest way out is to put all the blame on mental illness when they are just in simple words, bad criminals. It is offending, just ends up adding more to the stigma of mental health and seeing it as an excuse to ease their sentence. If we take most of these cases as a mental health disorder, the disease of stigma will continue to take over.
So, is mental health an excuse for bad behavior? Yes and no. Yes, because sometimes it cannot be helped and no, because some people use it to their advantage. However, we have to owe up to our wrong actions, and it is never too late to make an effort to seek help.
Mental illness is rarely a cause of bad behaviour.
– Sarah Yousuph.