The Enigma of Bias


An illusion of a Christmas tree.

The image of serial killers with schizophrenia was so strong in my mind and my subconsciousness that I was truly surprised to meet patients in a mental hospital, who would not hurt a fly. And this type of patients were the majority. It seemed like it was submissiveness that had brought them into the hospital, of course combined with some type of a mental illness. I later met a psychiatrist, who was giving assertiveness courses in the mental hospital, where he worked. Thus my observation could not have been totally wrong.

I also learned later that the percentage of criminal offenders among mental health consumers is lower than the same percentage among the rest of the population. Apparently, all the data shows how wrong the stereotype about serial killers with schizophrenia is. Of course there are cases like that, but they are extremely rare. Unfortunately, they are also very interesting to portray in the news, and in books and movies. That is why we remember them and create a bias. Until we know better, we are automatically afraid of mental health consumers because of this interesting but cruel stories. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type (which is a mixture of schizophrenia and bipolar) myself and I was afraid to run into serial killers in the hospital. Or at least into some slightly hostile patients. Instead, everyone I ran into was non-aggressive. This is how strong the stereotypes are.

Needless to say, these stereotypes are fuel for stigma. Therefore it is very important that people with no criminal record come out of the closet and tell their story. And of course also those, who were offenders, but managed to get well and are now law abiding citizens thanks to treatment.

Stereotypes take up more of our brain activity than we dare to imagine. Let me give you a few more examples. I was very surprised, when I saw a group of pre-school children and guess who was their teacher? A tattooed muscular guy. I would never in my wildest dream picture him as a pre-school teacher. But it was true. He was there. The kids were there. He was working with the kids. Tattoo or no tattoo.

I noticed in James Bond movies that the criminals he is after like to keep sharks in pools, where they starve them. This makes them a lethal weapon, when needed. No wonder we are so afraid of sharks, when swimming in the sea. We forget that they are not being starved in the open sea. And also statistics show that shark bites are rare.

Last but not least, I would like to mention a video I saw some time ago. Mother, father and daughter come to the doctor’s. The mother makes sure, that the daughter sits as far away as possible from a black man, who has been sitting in the waiting room before them. The family is white. After a while they are all called to the doctor’s office and the doctor introduces the black man as the donor of bone marrow to the girl. Imagine the mother’s shock.

Take care,
Helena Smole, author of:

– a fantasy novel with romance Vivvy and Izzy the Dwarf: A series about relationships

Balancing the Beast, a book offering a bright view of schizoaffective disorder ˗ bipolar or manic-depressive type

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