Despite awareness and acceptance spreading through social media and one’s personal life, mental health still isn’t taken as seriously as it should. There are hundreds of people who ask questions that should be taught to them earlier, who have a mindset that mental health is something very different than what it is and have never experienced first-hand a mental health issue being openly discussed by families and friends in their lives before.
Myth 1: It’s all in your head
Whichever mental disorder or illness you may have, it is physically and psychologically in your head. But that should not make anyone feel that they are over exaggerating or being dramatic of a very real issue. Mental health stigma has been around forever, but the worst and the deadliest part of it is when it convinces you that all the emotions and thoughts you are feeling are not real. It is estimated that over 90 percent of people who die of suicide have a mental disorder that was not diagnosed. Maintaining that people who have non-visible illnesses are liars or attention seekers can further debilitate their mental health, cripple their self-esteem and worsen their outlook on life. Many suggest that a good night’s sleep or eating healthy and exercising helps keep mental negativity away, but unfortunately, when one has a mental illness, these simple actions will not provide a magical cure. Keeping an open mind to a person’s feelings and paying attention to the person’s words are not cures, but it is a step forward in the right direction.
Myth 2: Children and youth can’t have mental illnesses
When confronted with mental health, most people be incredibly uncomfortable or very sympathetic. If it is a mental disorder that is physically or verbally apparent, people tend to move forward. But if children and young adults express the belief that they may have a mental health disorder or want to get help, they are often chided for their unreasonableness. However, children and young adults can have mental disorders. In fact, half of all mental disorders show signs before 14 years old and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before they are 24 years old. Listen to your child, your relative, your friend and let them talk to you freely, expressing what is going on that makes them feel that they have a mental disorder and discuss what steps to take next.
Myth 3: People who have a mental illness can’t be helped, they are too dangerous and unstable
To be clear: people who have mental illnesses are not more likely to be violent and dangerous than a person without a mental illness. The media has spread this stigma through movies, TV shows, games and even the news that those with mental disorders have a greater tendency for violence, when rates of violence are increasingly high against those with mental disorders. In fact, they are 2.5 more likely to be victims of violence such as being attacked, mugged or raped. To further clarify for those who think mental illnesses are defined as psychotic disorders, correlation is not causation. While the likelihood of violent behavior among people with psychotic disorders are higher, the causes of this behavior can be from alcohol or substance abuse, not receiving proper treatment or having a history of violent behavior in the past, not directly related to the illness. People who are male, a young adult, had a difficult childhood and have had issues with substance abuse in the past are more prone to violence, yet this doesn’t mean that a person who fits every category is going to be a violent offender. Those with mental disorders are not dangerous, violent or broken; they just have different experiences that not everyone has faced. You can still help them, by respecting their mental illness, offering support, and preparing for good times and bad times with them.
There’s been a lot of mental health that still needs to be talked about between family, friends, and one’s community. Yet if the basic myths are debunked, hopefully, conversations will begin and people will try learning and understanding more about others and what they go through. Mental health needs to be recognized as something that people joke about casually and discriminate on unknowingly.