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25th March 2024
Unwanted neighbourhood with people with psychosocial disability in Lithuania: why is this prejudice dangerous?

A 2023 survey of public opinion revealed that people are most likely to be unwilling to have someone with a psychosocial disabilities as a neighbour or coworker. Experts warn that this not only reflects the lingering negative perspective of psychosocial disabilities in our society, but also signals another potential problem: violence against people with disabilities may go unnoticed. Neighbours are often among the first to witness the violence and call the police, but negative biases could prevent them from intervening.

According to Mintautė Jurkutė, Head of the Discrimination Prevention and Communication Group at the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson, negative attitudes towards people with psychosocial disabilities arise from stereotypes: “This prejudice towards psychosocial disabilities is heavily influenced by stereotypes. People with psychosocial disorders are often considered strange or even dangerous. There’s an assumption that psychiatric treatment automatically means the person is unpredictable and threatening. Words like ‘psycho,’ ‘mental’ or ‘crazy’ are used as insults or to describe anyone whose behaviour seems different than the norm.”

Jurkutė emphasizes that these fears are misguided: “We fear what we don’t understand. It’s crucial to talk openly about mental health. Psychosocial disabilities aren’t necessarily hereditary and can develop later in life due to challenging circumstances. The disability may also change or become undetectable with proper treatment. Each person’s experience is unique. For example, many people diagnosed with schizophrenia live independently, have jobs and relationships. However, environmental barriers like discrimination or inflexible work conditions can make things more challenging.”

In addition, people with disabilities have significantly more challenges getting their reports of domestic violence taken seriously. Their testimonies are often doubted, and they might even be the ones left at fault for the committed act.

The situation is especially concerning for women with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities. Their accounts are dismissed due to their mental health conditions. They’re seen as overly emotional or exaggerating the situation, and the violence is completely denied.

“Research shows that people with psychosocial disabilities are shunned or feared in their neighbourhoods. This makes it more likely that incidents of violence go unreported,” says M. Jurkutė. “This is a frightening reality. It means we readily turn away from certain groups and their problems.”

If you witness or suspect possible violence, don’t be a bystander. Ask for help immediately:

  • Call the general emergency number 112
  • Contact the specialized complex assistance center at tel. +370 700 55516 (emotional support, legal advice)

More information about violence and help contacts: www.visureikalas.lt