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My Mental Health Condition Does Not Make Me a Werewolf

My Mental Health Condition Does Not Make Me a Werewolf

Personal Perspective: How one statement walked our country back a century.

“He opened our border to people from prisons, people from mental institutions, insane asylums, terrorists.” In one breath, a former president placed a class I belong to (people with mental health conditions) in the same fear-based category as terrorists. He used a health condition that myself and 57.8 million other Americans (National Institutes of Health, 2024). live with as a political pawn.

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A Dark History

As with many phenomena that are difficult to understand, mental illness has historically been greeted with fear and fear-based abuse. Perhaps the first available treatment for what we know now as mental health conditions was exorcism (Scull, 2015). In time, exorcism progressed to other means of control—chains, insulin coma, and large-scale institutionalization. These practices are a horrific aspect of our country’s past that is not typically taught in history classes.

In 1908, a man by the name of Clifford Beers wrote a book titled A Mind That Found Itself, sharing his harrowing experience of mental illness and the inhumane treatment he received in the asylums of the time. He founded Mental Health America, an organization that has fought for the well-being of individuals affected by mental health conditions. In 1953, the organization gave a call out to hospitals for the iron chains that once confined those living with mental illness. These were cast into a bell as a symbol of mental health recovery.

Shortly after, as mental illnesses became understood as health conditions and those with mental health conditions were seen as having equal humanity to all, the deinstitutionalization movement began.

My Mental Health Condition Does Not Make Me a Werewolf

The truth is that mental health conditions are not widely associated with violence. Most violent crimes are committed by individuals without mental illness (Varshney et al., 2016).

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Yet, as demonstrated above, misunderstanding and fear can be quite dangerous. In addition to America’s shameful history of oppression toward those living with mental health conditions, even today, the diagnosis of a mental health condition is the single factor most linked with the risk of being shot by a police officer (Saleh et al., 2018). A person living with a mental health condition is more likely to be a victim of violence than a perpetrator.

My mental health condition does not make me a wild-eyed werewolf looking for her next bite. Neither do others’. Yet these stories of fear perpetuate a culture that does not welcome us. These narratives discourage individuals from seeking support for often treatable health conditions.

Just as with most other health conditions, hospitalization is sometimes a part of mental health treatment, but let’s leave those disgraceful pictures of fear and words like “mental institutions and mental asylums” in the past where they belong.


Beers, C (1908). A Mind That Found Itself.

National Institutes of Health (2024). Mental Health Statistics: 2024. Retrieved from Mental Health Statistics [2024] | USAHS

Saleh, A. Z., Appelbaum, P. S., Liu, X., Stroup, T. S., & Wall, M. (2018). Deaths of people with mental illness during interactions with law enforcement. International journal of law and psychiatry, 58, 110-116.

Scull, A. (2015). Madness in Civilization: A Cultural History of Insanity. Princeton

Varshney, M., Mahapatra, A., Krishnan, V., Gupta, R., & Deb, K. S. (2016). Violence and mental illness: what is the true story?. J Epidemiol Community Health, 70(3), 223-225.

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