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Mental Illness Is Not A Disability
Up For Grabs Tropeworthy?

(permanent link) added: 2011-06-15 09:57:11 sponsor: batgirl1 (last reply: 2013-02-06 16:58:21)

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There is a tendency in fiction (and, in some cases, reality) to treat Mental Illness as if it were not, in fact, an impairment beyond the control of whoever's afflicted with it. This often manifests in two forms:

Type A: Mental disorders are simply not given the same respect as physical disabilities. While a character who slows down the action due to being deaf or blind might be excused or even admired, a character impaired by OCD or ADHD will instead be treated with annoyance and pretty much told to shake it off. (Unfortunate Implications include the idea that a mental illness or disorder is something you can "snap out of" if you try hard enough). Sadly, this Double Standard exists in real life as well. (Of course, if it's all an act or Obfuscating Insanity, then this is justified.)

Type B: In some works, mental illness really isn't a disability apparently, as it doesn't slow down or impede the character in any way, making them at worst a Bunny-Ears Lawyer. If anything, being crazy makes the character even better at what they do, such as in Crazy Awesome, Insanity Immunity, Disability Superpower and a heck of a lot of other tropes. Often associated with bad guys -- see Insane Equals Violent. Contrast Sanity Has Advantages.
  • A Sub-Type of this, popular in fanfiction circles, is depicting Depression as something that allows characters to brood and angst and be tragic and attractively weak and broken. What's often ignored is the fact that depression is not a nice illness nor is it simple or easy to end -- and most importantly, the love of the lead male is not going to magically put an end to it. If anything, it should load the depressed heroine with guilt, shame and uncertainty. Depression tends to rear its ugly head for months and years after the healing process has started. [[hottip:*: More information on Real Life Depression can be found here.]]

See Also The Mentally Disturbed. This may be why There Are No Therapists.


Examples

Type A
  • Monk - The entire series handles Monk's OCD according to Type A. At least Once an Episode there's a situation where Monk could just explain his disorder and resolve the conflict, but that would rob the series completely of it's comedy.
    • One egregious example of the trope is in the episode where Monk is trying to prove an astronaut killed his ex-girlfriend. Monk is speaking at a school, and the students all shine laser-pointers on him, driving him up a wall. Not only were the students not reprimanded, but the situation was portrayed as an example of Monk being weak.
  • In Rain Man, Tom Cruise's character gets upset at Dustin Hoffman's savant character for the reasons described here.

Type B
  • "Fishmalks" in Vampire: The Masquerade are a (technically) fan made example of this. The Malkavian vampire clan have insanity as their Fantastic Fragility-- anyone turned into a Malkavian vampire will invariably develop some form of mental illness regardless of prior mental stability. This was meant to be horrifying, an uncontrolled and incurable descent into insanity. However, some players took this to mean "Chaotic Neutral Bunny-Ears Lawyer" and did incredibly random and unsettling things, only to act completely rationally later.
  • The Joker. Being insane has only enhanced him, and there is speculation that he might only be faking.
  • Deadpool. His madness enables him to see the Fourth Wall and gives him strong enough Confusion Fu to beat the Task Master.
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