Home » Blogs » Polishing the Fragments » The Politics Of Mental Illness

The Politics Of Mental Illness

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” Mahatma Ghandi.straight jacket photo

Here is an excerpt from my book ‘More Than The Madness’, “In my experience it seems if you’re poor they will call you “crazy” and most likely you will wind up in a state institution or worse, a prison. If you’re middle class you suffer from a “chemical imbalance,” and you will most likely get adequate treatment. If you are rich you will be called “eccentric” and you will get the finest treatment. Whatever you call it, most people would like to brush it under the mat, somewhere out of sight.” Call it a byproduct of racism or economic prejudices the generality stands accurate.

There is a politics of mental illness. We are bond together by our chemical imbalance. Like any other ‘minority’ or group we share a common interest and a common goal. As such we have a politics that we collectively share.

The Hard Numbers Of Mental Health

I see estimates that one in five Americans experience mental illness in a given year. Twenty six percent of people in homeless shelters have severe mental illness. About twenty percent of prisoners have had a recent mental illness. Seventy percent of the youth in the juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health issue.

Putting On The Face Of Mental Illness

A large portion of our numbers are military veterans suffering from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress  Disorder. The mentally ill consist of our parents, our siblings, our children and our neighbors. Our numbers include those suffering from a wide variety of ailments which are diverse, like anorexia, bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and others. We are not ambiguous mass murderers lurking in the shadows but rather flesh and blood human beings.

Our Common Interests

The mentally ill community have a whole set of issues that are of a concern to us. First and foremost is accessibility to quality mental health care and medications. We all have a vested stake in keeping psychiatric hospitals at highest quality. After all we are the ones that are going to be using them.

We need to be able to afford the best of medicines. Having medicine that we can’t afford does us no good. Also we need new medicines developed that both work better and have less negative side effects. Thus scientific research into medicine is paramount.

The police must be educated in ways to handle the mentally ill. They need serious and intensive training in this matter. I am shocked and appalled every time I hear about a police officer shooting and killing somebody who suffers from mental illness. I believe that these instances can be avoided with proper instruction on how to handle a person who suffers from mental illness. Also our judicial system must recognize the unique needs of the mentally ill. Sending people to jail as opposed to adequate treatment is unacceptable.

Together we must fight the stigma that is associated with mental illness. Our battle will not be done until we as a community can openly declare out mental illness and not suffer any negative ramifications because of it.

Since homelessness is so full of people who suffer from mental illness we need to develop strategies and solutions which will adequately address their unique needs. We need more group homes where people can get off of the streets and out of the shelters.

Pushing The Issue

Like anything else political in the United States we need to organize ourselves to politically. We must support grass roots organizations and bring our causes and needs to the forefront. We need to make sure that our dialogue is part of the conversation. We need to show that our vote and financial support is contingent upon issues pertinent to the mental health community.

My Personal Crusade

I believe in the power of example. By being openly mentally ill and living a normal life I think that promotes the cause. I am an activist and society’s acceptance of mental illness is one of my causes. I have met many people who are afraid to allow knowledge of their ailment to come out. I have written about my struggles in my memoirs “More Than The Madness”. It is an excellent way to educate people on mental illness.

Photos by goodnight_photography,

The Politics Of Mental Illness

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2017). The Politics Of Mental Illness. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Nov 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.