Myths and dissemination of false information about mental illnesses often contribute to the stigma around mental health. It leads to coercion and institutionalization where empowerment and recovery are required. We must challenge these myths so we can understand the real facts surrounding mental health, in order to help and support our loved ones and ourselves.
Myth: Mental health problems are uncommon and rare
Fact: The statement is false and people who think so should take a long hard look at their privilege. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that “1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” Currently, 450 million people are undergoing such conditions. As the WHO explains, mental disorders are “among the leading causes of ill health and disability worldwide.” Depression and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are the most common mental health disorders around the world. When so many of us are fighting silent battles every day, why can’t we as a society rid ourselves of the stigma and fight the battle with pride?
Myth: People with mental illnesses are unreliable, vicious and unpredictable.
Fact: This is one of the most common misconceptions about mental illnesses. In reality, the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%–5% of violent crimes can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. According to WHO, people with severe mental ailments are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general populace. In your daily life, you might have interacted with a person living with a mental illness and might have not even realized it, because many people with mental health problems are highly dynamic and industrious members of our communities. Members who are forced to hide their true self and their battles simply because of the crushing weight of public opinion.
Myth: People with mental health conditions cannot work or hold down a job.
Fact: This one is an old but persistent myth about people with mental health issues. This is entirely false. Someone living with a particularly severe mental health condition might indeed be unable to carry out regular work. However, the majority of people with mental health issues can be as productive as individuals without mental health disorders.
Myth: Mental illnesses are a sign of weakness and character flaws. People with mental health problems can “snap out” of it if they try hard enough.
Fact: This is no truer than saying that a broken leg is a sign of weakness. Mental health disorders are not a sign of poor character. Many biological and social factors contribute to mental health problems, including:
- Biological factors such as genes, physical ailments, injury, or brain chemistry
- Traumatic life experiences like neglect or a history of abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
People suffering from depression, cannot “snap out of it” any more than someone with diabetes or psoriasis can instantly recover from their illness. Fighting a mental health condition takes a great deal of strength and we should respect their journey. Just like we would visit a doctor and take help for a physical ailment, we must do the same for our mental health. Professional help and therapy have been proved to be helpful and important for someone going through a tough time, mentally.
Myth: Mental illnesses are perpetual with no chance of recovery.
Fact: Studies show that people with mental illnesses can get better and may even recover completely. With the recent increase in neurobiological research and psychotherapy, there are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before. It is also important to note that “recovery” means different things to different people, for it is subjective. Some might view recovery as a complete return to normal life while for others, recovery might mean relief from symptoms.
Myth: Talking to friends is enough for someone suffering from mental distress. Therapy is not necessary and a waste of money. Taking pills is more effective.
Fact: There is a large difference between structured talking therapies and interacting with friends. A trained therapist can address issues constructively and help you spot patterns in your behavior in ways that even the best of friends cannot match. Therapy is confidential, objective, and entirely focused on the individual, whereas in informal chats with friends there is always judgment and presupposed notions. Also, not everybody can open up to their friends and family. Professional help is important, and most people are unable to reach out because of the stigma surrounding it. Have we ever looked down upon someone for visiting a doctor for physical pain? No, right? Then, why do we look down on people visiting a doctor to treat their mental pain?
Myth: Eating disorders are a lifestyle choice and they only affect women.
Fact: Considering eating disorders as a lifestyle choice is a very harmful myth. If left undiagnosed and untreated eating disorders can be fatal. There is a stereotype that eating disorders only affect women and white women in particular. However, they can affect anyone. In fact, eating disorders amongst Asian people are very high because of imposed standards of beauty and body. According to research by PubMed central, males currently account for 10–25% of all cases of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, as well as 25% of cases of binge eating disorders.
Myth: Addiction is rooted in a lack of willpower. Only people with lewd associations drink heavily.
Fact: This statement is untrue on so many levels. The WHO and other experts consider drug use disorders to be chronic diseases. Researchers have found that a lack of willpower was not the determining factor when it came to overcoming addiction. Addiction is often a result of or a complementary factor of other mental health disorders like depression. A person suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than an average person. Addiction becomes a coping mechanism, and eventually an illness. It has nothing to do with willpower.
Educating ourselves about mental health is very important for efficient public health infrastructure. We are often fearful of the things we can’t fathom, instead of extending judgment, extend a hand. A little empathy never hurts anyone. Don’t be afraid to lend a hand when someone needs it.
Written by Shatakshi
Priya bhuker · 1 April 2021 at 10:48 am
Priyal · 1 April 2021 at 10:15 pm
Important to know ✨??
Priya bhuker · 1 April 2021 at 11:00 pm
Medhavi · 7 April 2021 at 9:23 am
Priya bhuker · 4 April 2021 at 6:51 pm
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