End the Stigma: Bringing Truths of Mental Illness to Light

The topic of my persuasive essay and advocacy project is Mental illness and bringing awareness to this silent killer. The first part of my paper will cover the prevalence of mental illness and de-myth certain views that some people have, such as, everyone who has a mental illness is diagnosed; unfortunately only 36 percent of people with a mental illness receive treatment. I bring to light the truth that, the fact that many people with a mental illness are not diagnosed make the public think it isn’t as serious as a problem as it is.
Next, I will continue by discussing the media’s role in creating stigma against mental illness which most people–who do not have a mental illness–do not even notice. Not only does media in general create stigma, but some of the most watched, such as Disney movies, who create stigma in the brains of children. A 2004 study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that a total of 85% of Disney animated films contained references to characters with mental illness. Most of the characters referred to as mentally ill serve as objects of derision or amusement. This stigma that stems from the media places a barrier in front of any one who would talk about their mental illness, they feel uncomfortable talking about it and refrain from seeking out the help that they need, which then in turn can turn into suicide.
My next point will be about how even with our society’s strong desire to have complete equality, some groups are left out–in this case. For example here at Penn State there was a mental awareness October 21-25 2013, but not many people actually knew about it. I may also use other group of people to compare, such as African-Americans and LGBTA communities and how they were, and still are discriminated against and how I believe Equality should be increased for those who are mentally ill and to spread the awareness of the seriousness of the issue.
After that I will throw in a section about why I personally care for this issue, using the personal experience of my family and friends who have gone/are going through this. I hope this will increase the pathos in my essay. Also, I will emphasize that everyone should care to and restate the stats that one in four in their lifetime will go through a mental illness.
Lastly I will specifically state how people can help reduce the stigma and allow for a more open communication between those who have a metal illness and those around them. I will throw in some myths here that people have about those with mental illness and offer solutions, such as constructive ways to discuss mental illnesses with a friend or how to spot warning signs of a worsening of a mental illness. My goal here is to get people to realize mental illness is just that–an illness. Some people may view illnesses like depression as in their control, when it is not. I aim to get more people to understand that people with mental illnesses are not any less “normal” than everyone else, they are just ill, and that blaming someone does not help. The best way for anyone to be supportive to someone with a mental illness is to realize their illness is out of your control (unless you are a certified doctor), and the best and most helpful thing to do is to offer acceptance and support because most people with a mental disorder expect their friends to do the exact opposite and leave. When people who desperately need help are left feeling like this, it’s no wonder so many lives lost because of it. That is something we need to change.

Oculus Rift: A New Technology in Gaming and…in Business?

Out of the many new technologies that have arisen in out current decade, one of them really impresses me and brings with it an admirable, futuristic, coolness. It’s a device not even on the market yet. This headset, know as the Oculus Rift, immerses the user into a 3D visual experience–gaming or even video. Having used one myself I can attest to it’s wonder. When I watched a video with one, I could barely concentrate on the video because of my fascination with this feeling of actually being in the setting–all other visual stimuli was blocked out. In the past, virtual reality headsets were hindered by their limited field of view, making it appear like you were sitting in a dark room facing a television that was several feet from you. But the Oculus Rift puts you inside the screen, with a huge field of view that fills your entire vision. With stereoscopic 3D built in too, the level of immersion is unparalleled.

While other virtual reality headsets already exist on the market, many have extremely high price points or are reserved for specific communities like the military. Pricing for the Oculus Rift has not yet been announced, but it will be competitively priced to fuel consumer interest and adoption. Currently developers can purchase the Oculus Rift and the developer kit for $350, so they can build software and games that will work with the device.

But Since the Oculus began on Kickstarter with predictions and anticipations of it turning into a gaming device, the recent $2 billion purchase by Facebook has caused many fans to protest; these Oculus fans fear their potential gaming device will be turned into a social media one instead.


What some fans may not know though, is that this virtual reality device may actually be used in the future, in businesses. This could potentially be used as a more productive means of teaching employees how to do their job: psychologists are currently testing this hypothesis. A few graduate psychologists at the Pennsylvania State University–including I/O Psychology graduate Matt Howard–are in the midst of researching the benefits of using the Oculus Rift to teach people. They believe if their study results are positive that there is a good change the Oculus Rift may me used by employers in the future and even by some virtual schools. Since the device blocks out all other stimuli, it enables the user–whether employee or student–to absorb the information without being easily distracted. Results of the study cannot be predicted, but the future holds certain greatness for the Oculus Rift, whatever form that will take.

Persuasive Essay and Advocacy

For my paper/advocacy project(s), I want to write about mental health awareness. I feel like everyone everywhere is worried about the physical health of others–especially for those with serious physical disabilities. I don’t usually feel many people are concerned with those with mental disabilities/disorders, which are usually just as bad, if not worse than many physical disabilities. As well, from knowing many personal friends who have mental disorders, I know there is not an openness about talking about mental illnesses and therefore many people who have them feel like “freaks” because there is a lack of knowledge about these diseases and so those who have them feel uncomfortable talking about it. Keeping quiet about these things is the very last thing they should be doing.
Really I am extremely motivated to write about this–mainly because I have known many people to have mental illness, even very severe cases which have become suicidal at points. I have heard form some friends how it feels for them to go through all that they do and I know there needs to be a change in our society to fix this. If people who crucially need help don’t feel comfortable sharing, they will most-likely keep quiet and there condition will worsen for them, it can be fatal. Not only do more people need to be informed with it, they need to be taught how to be a support group for those going through it. I’m not sure how exactly I will format this, but I just know this is a very important topic for me–especially being a (an English and) Psychology major and, like I said before since I have friends who suffer through it.

Can We Prevent Stereotypes?

In my previous post I explored the historical beginning of stereotyping and some of the psychology which comes along with it. Now that beginning of stereotyping has been covered, there is another huge question to tackle: Can stereotyping be prevented? Since stereotyping has been around for a long time, it’s unfortunately inevitable. Tough we may not be able to completely prevent stereotypes, we can, with effort try to avoid creating them ourselves.

Stereotypes begin in childhood

During our youth, when our minds are the most malleable, books and television imprint irreversible stereotype onto our brains. Even Disney movies–many childs’ favorite–contain many various stereotypes, like the merchant in Aladdin. In a study, ABC’s “20/20” brought together three groups of kids and showed them pictures of two men — one Arab, the other Asian.

The children were asked which man they liked better, over and over, more kids said they preferred “the Chinese guy.”

Several children weighed in on the Arab man’s personality, basing their opinions on just seeing his picture. One child said, “I think he’s weird.” Another child said, “He’s like the scary dude.”

Next, “20/20” showed the kids pictures of a black man and white man. Some of the comments made by the children include the following.

One said, “He looks mean.” Another referred to him as “FBI’s Most Wanted.” Another commented, “He looks like he’s a basketball player.”

When the white man’s picture was shown, one child said, “He’s nice.” Another said, “I think he’s nice except he might be mad about something.”

The boy was probably picking up on something. The photo of a white man was of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Admittedly, the pictures were a little bit different, but when we asked which man is a criminal, most kids pointed to the black man. When we asked which man was a teacher, most pointed to McVeigh. This is ironic because the black man pictured was Harvard University professor Roland Fryer.

So, since stereotypes are part of us since childhood we cannot fully prevent them; we can however try avoiding them in the moment.

Ways to avoid stereotyping


1. Don’t be overly nice to the object of your stereotyping.
So, most people do not do this, but then others do. Certain people think that they can cover up inner stereotypes by being so nice to certain people of minority. For example, my friend Kim (Caucasian) once brought her friend Nicole (African-American) to the Vacation Bible School at her church. Kim had been a part of this church for a couple years and no one had formally introduced themselves to her. Yet, the first day she brought Nicole, some of her church members came right up and introduced themselves to Nicole and acted super friendly. This is still stereotyping. Purposefully treating others better because they are a minority covers the stereotype because if the stereotype were not there, everyone would be treated equally.

2. Learn to Recognize and Avoid Generalizations.
There are some stereotypes whose foundation is a generalization: all Christians hate gays, all French are snobs, etc. An easy tactic one can use to avoid these types of stereotype from happening is simply pausing in the moment before making a judgement and thinkCan this possibly be true for all cases? More likely than not, nothing is always true. Though the majority of a minority or social may have something in common, does not mean all of them do.

Though there are many more ways people everywhere can become more aware of stereotypes, these are a few. Overall the main tactic would be–take time and think.

Have We Lost the Art of Storytelling?

Ever since I first heard of the local event called Muriel’s Repair–a group who meets monthly to tell stories–I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling as a whole and how it affects our society. When I heard that this group existed, I was surprised. I had no idea people still actively did this sort of, old-fashioned, thing. It made me wonder how technology has affected story-telling? It made me think things like: when was the last time you just sat down with some friends–maybe around a campfire–and told stories. Real story-telling. I mean, do people do that anymore? I am not simply talking about gossip or chit-chat, but actually telling a story in a way to not only share information with other people but to spark conversations, make people laugh. Has the art of story-telling been lost in all this technology?

When I attended Muriel’s Repair–the story-telling event previously mentioned–it hit me that possibly this art hasn’t been lost. Maybe instead it is just hidden. Anne Rutherford, a professional storyteller from Portland, said that the art of story-telling isn’t lost, it’s just misplaced. “Whatever their age, whatever their circumstance, if it’s a good story and it’s well told we completely have the ability to respond to that. However, what I think we’re losing is the opportunity to be in those situations.” (MyNorthWest.com) I agree with her statement. Although technology has made communication easier it may be diminishing our opportunity to utilize story-telling. In order for someone to become a riveting story-teller one must take the time to practice their skills. Usually in-order to do this people would take advantage of situations where people were waiting for something and/or have free time. In today’s age when people are waiting or have a short amount of free time they pull out their Smartphones and start playing Angry Birds or Flappy Bird.


So really, it can be said the art of Story-telling has not been lost, but merely misplaced because people do not practice it as often as people used to. This can be looked at as either a good thing (at least story-telling lives on) or a bad thing (but, people rarely use it). Regardless it can make one think about how the they spend their free-time.


Where/When did Stereotyping/Racism Start?

Looking around us today, one would think that all the major stereotypes and racism have always been. Maybe that is the case, but I’d say it isn’t. Where did it come from then? Could humans actually just be naturally evil and judgmental? Many theories may cover this topic in that sense but, as for me, I will be lightly delving in European Expansionism by using Charles Mills’ book, The Racial Contract, as a shovel to guide me. Through this I hope to convey a better understanding of the mindsets of stereotyping/racism; to better know the present, one must better know the past.

Why Europeans?
If you think about it, any race could have been in control of our country as it is today and maybe we would still have stereotypes and racism, but it would be switched. How then did Europeans end up expanding so far and taking control of other civilizations, such as native Americans and African Americans? Basically, luck. As Jared Diamond argues in his book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, civilization is not so much a product of ingenuity, but of opportunity and necessity. That is, civilization is not created out of superior intelligence, but is the result of a chain of developments, each made possible by certain preconditions. It all comes down to who developed means of expansion first: means of trade, government, textiles, medicine, and most importantly, weapons. Though gunpowder was first created in China, in Europe weapons were being developed and improved quite quickly with cannons appearing in Italy in the 14th century where they were modified as European nations waged many wars. By the 16th century, European firearms had become far more advanced–and far more deadly–than their counterparts in the East. Once Europe had enough of these, they could start exploring. Exploration was only the beginning.

What Happened Next?
Next, as Europeans started finding “new” places, they ran into some inconveniences: other people already lived there (aww, too bad). But the thing was, Europeans were on a mission to conquer and so they denied the existence of these people; they denied the existence of already established societies by establishing their societies onto these places. As Mills points out in his book, “The establishment of society thus implies the denial that a society already existed; the creation of society requires the intervention of white men, who are thereby positioned as already sociopolitical beings.” (Mills 13) Since these Europeans began to view these established societies as void, they also began to view the inhabitants as sub sociopolitical. This created the views that the native inhabitants were “Savage” or “Wild Man” which is also mentioned in The Racial Contract: “As Hayden White points out, the creation of the ‘Wild Man’ illustrates ‘the technique of ostensive self-definition by negation,’ the characterization of oneself by reference to what one is not.” (Mills 43) The Europeans therefore referred to themselves–at least subconsciously–as superior to those whom they deemed “Savage”. It isn’t even that they recognized what they were doing, they just saw what they saw and through their preconceived, determined, mindset to conquer, they were blind to what they were doing.

“So the basic sequence ran something like this: there are no people there in the first place; in the second place, they’re not improving the land; and in the third place–oops!–they’re already all dead anyway (and, honestly, there really weren’t that many to begin with), so there are no people there, as we said in the first place.” (Mills 50)

Diamond, J. (March 1997). Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Company.
Mills, Charles W. (1999 (paperback)). The Racial Contract. Cornell Paperbacks

I Can Hear the Changes


I raised my voice in a conversation the other day with a friend’s grandfather when he started talking about his recently acquire hearing aid (it was obvious he really did have difficulty hearing). Then he adjusted the volume on the hearing aid, as he mentioned its miraculous nature, and got me thinking about such a helpful technology which most people seldom take notice of. Everyday new forms of technology force us to take notice of them; we cannot escape them. So frequent we come across them we don’t even realize many of the other forms of smaller, but still useful, technologies that have been developed, and improved, to help people in their daily lives: like hearing aids. The Center for Hearing and Communication reports that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 have some degree of hearing loss. So, most-likely, each one of us knows someone currently using a hearing aid, but many people may not know just how significantly hearing aids have been improved since they first came to market in 1987, particularly in the past 2-3 years, in various ways to identify and amplify desired sounds like the human voice while muting background noise. On top of the newer, aesthetically-pleasing, choice between from behind-the-ear (BTE) to completely-in-the-canal (CIC) variations of hearing aids, recently there have been significant improvements that are listed below.

1. Increased Comfort
Related to the introduction of Digital Signal Processing (DSP), one of the primary benefits is the potential for increased audibility of sounds of interest without discomfort resulting from high intensity sounds. The greatly increased flexibility and control of compression processing provided by DSP can lead to improved audibility with less clinician effort. Expansion, the opposite of compression, has also been introduced in digital hearing aids. This processing can lead to greater listener satisfaction by reducing the intensity of low-level environmental sounds and microphone noise that otherwise may have been annoying to the user, thus it grants your loved one using this more of an enjoyable experience when they try listening to you speak.

2. Improved Sound

Digital Feedback Reduction (DFR), the first factor in improving a user’s sound reduces moderate feedback through the use of a cancellation system or notch filtering. DFR can substantially benefit users who experience occasional interfering feedback, such as that associated with jaw movement and close proximity to objects.

Digital Noise Reduction (DNR), the second factor which improves sound, is a processing intended to reduce gain, either in the low frequencies or in specific bands, when noise is detected. The DNR reduces annoyance and possibly improve speech recognition in the presence of non-fluctuating noise. All in all these two improvements can enhance the listening experience for any hearing aid wearer.

3. Improved Speaking
Another new accomplishment is Digital Speech Enhancement (DSE); these systems act to increase the relative intensity of some segments of speech. Current DSE processing identifies and enhances speech based either on temporal, or more recently, spectral content. DSE in hearing aids is still relatively new, but its effectiveness is large.
Also, the ability of directional hearing aids to improve the effective signal-to-noise ratio has become well established. In some cases combining DSP (mentioned earlier) with directional microphones can act to further enhance this benefit. In some hearing aids DSP is used to calibrate microphones, control the shape of the directional pattern, automatically switch between directional and omnidirectional modes, and reduce additional circuit noise generated by directional microphones. All of these combine to produce well processed sound and capability to increase accuracy of not only hearing, but speaking as well (seeing as speaking is basically hearing yourself)


Remote-Controlled Animals?


Besides just Iphones and general technology that is used daily, what else is there?  There are some really cool things that have been invented by new developing technologies–some very much like things you’d find in a Sci-Fi book or film: the one I’m covering today, is remote controlled animals and how they can be used for our benefit and whether of not this is actually ethical.

The first animal scientists started with was the rat.  By implanting electrode into the rat’s brain– “one in the brain region that senses reward or pleasure, and one each in areas that process signals from the rat’s left and right whisker bundles”–they can control the rat’s movements from up to 1,640 feet (500 meters) away.  So why would we ever need such a concept? Well, it could potentially save lives.  Since rats are relatively small they would be sent into the wreckage of a disaster, with a camera attached to them in order to locate missing persons.

Another development in this field is that scientists have done the same thing with pigeons.


Scientists accomplished this pigeon experiment by implanting micro-electrodes into their brains, just like they did with the rats. The remote control bird experiment follows was completed by the same team in which white mice with implanted micro electrodes were guided, because of this now some of the US military are considering using this technology to use birds to spy on their enemies. the US navy also hopes one day to use such implants to exploit sharks’ natural ability to sense delicate electrical gradients and follow chemical trails left by a vessel. A Telegraph article claims, “Swimming in a ship’s wake, a remote-controlled shark could track an enemy vessel’s movements without being noticed, and under its own power.”

It’s really amazing all the kinds of things technology can accomplish. In the future we may be able to use this technology with animals in order to help and even save soldiers or missing people; the only point against this is whether or not it is ethical to the animals. But, regardless of if it is or not, it remains astounding what we can do with technology.




This I Believe Workshop Feedback

The TIB workshop we did in-class on Wednesday was very helpful for me.  It was even more helpful because of the fact our groups were divided by theme, so we could work with similar ideas as everyone else in our group.  I generally enjoy group peer-reviews because it’s always useful to have a set (or multiple sets) of new eyes looking at your work.  I received specific feedback from my group on specific things I need to work on:

Firstly my group told me that in my TIB I needed to clarify the relationship between pride and failure so the reader could have a clearer picture of the image.  I think I will improve this aspect of my TIB by giving pride a metaphoric image to go along with the whole arrow metaphor.

Another tip given to me was to give one or two specific personal example(s) instead of just mentioning a few vague instances. Along with this came the idea to concise the  middle paragraph to give me more space to write some more within the 500 word limit while still maintaining the same idea.  Through all the feedback I received I know I can improve my TIB; I would consider this workshop a success and would also recommend it as a way to peer-review in the future.

A World Always Talking: Did Fahrenheit 451 Predict the Future?

“Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me, I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say.”
― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451

Routine acts influenced by this new era of rapidly growing technology have created habits which turn our world into one that’s always talking, just like Bradbury writes about in his renowned fictional society from the book Fahrenheit 451.  His world is a fast-paced society with fast cars, wall-sized televisions, seashells (ear-buds), electronic surveillance, and people paying more attention to the screens around them than physical life.  This book that was published over fifty years ago made realistic predictions of our current day; it makes one ponder exactly how fictional Bradbury’s world is.  Could elements of this world other than technology–such as relationship dynamics and ideals–have also been predicted in his book?


Not unlike the apathetic relationship between the main character, Guy Montag, and his wife, Mildred, of the book Fahrenheit 451, an overuse of technology has been seen to negatively alter what might other-wise be healthy relationships.  We’ve even gotten to the point where children are forced to compete with technology for attention since many parents neglect to give their children enough.  When, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, “young people ages 8 to 18 now spend nearly every waking moment when they are not in school using media”, family members are propelled to screens for entertainment and company: everyone is growing more and more detached from reality.  This is very much in the same way that Mildred, Montag’s wife, becomes.  She frequently blocks out the world as described here:

“And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in, coming in on the shore of her unsleeping mind. The room was indeed empty. Every night the waves came in and bore her off on their great tides of sound, floating her, wide-eyed, toward morning. There had been no night in the last two years that Mildred had not swum that sea, had not gladly gone down in it for the third time” (Bradbury 76)

Some irony resides in the unnatural manner in which she blocks out the world around her.  The characters call them seashells, but their function is anything but natural.  It even gets to a point where Montag can barely maintain a relationship with his wife because of it.

As well, Bradbury’s story predicts the dumbing-down of society through the media which is channeled through excessive use of unavoidable screens.  At one particular point in the book Mildred and a couple of her friends are discussing politics and how they decide who to vote for.  How do they choose who to elect? Based on appearance, they choose whoever looks best.  In a way, doesn’t that resemble how we pick who our leaders are, how they appear?  Though many people fact-check political candidates and the ads that represent them, a large majority still believe what they are told.  So, if one candidate has more negative ads against the other candidate, their odds of winning might just be a tad higher.  Even if a candidate physically appears more attractive or trustworthy to the general public they also gain positive reputation for that.

Lastly, in Bradbury’s book, the world emanates apathy as if all the technology has sucked up all emotional quality like a vacuum.  People do not want to feel.  People like Mildred would rather block out the world and block out their feelings, barricading any harm from getting to them whilst barricading any positive emotions as well. There has been a decrease in sincerity in our world too.  Subtle feelings like the hesitant, fearful feeling of actually calling someone screams of the decrease in the willingness to converse directly.  There lacks voice inflection and facial expression in texting or chatting, to hint at the true intent of the speaker; it breaks stable foundations of sincerity, leaving us wondering whether or not the person means what they “say”.    Recognition of genuine sincerity is lost, what it means is lost, and what it’s worth to give full time and attention to another individual is lost.  With it we may possibly lose most quality of all emotion.

“Do you know why books such as this are so important? Because they have quality. And what does the word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores.”― Ray BradburyFahrenheit 451



Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print

“Is Technology Ruining the English Language?” Destruction –. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Jan. 2014.

Richtel, Matt. Reading from paper versus screens: a critical review of the empirical literature.  The New York Times.  June 7, 2010. www.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/technology/07brain.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0