Top 10 mental health stigma myths
Mental health has been — and still is — a topic of discussion many people tend to avoid. Whether that be because of discomfort or the fact that our society has painted those suffering from a mental illness as “crazy” and/or unable to successfully participate in society. The best way to open a conversation for those suffering is to debunk these stigmas and myths that surround the topic. It is important for us to educate ourselves on the many misconceptions regarding mental health as it can lead to lack of understanding from others, unwillingness to seek help or treatment, fewer opportunities for work, school, or trouble finding housing, harassment, lower self-esteem and many more harmful effects.
Here are our top 10 mental health stigmas and myths:
1 . Mental illness is uncommon
One of the biggest misconceptions that people tend to have is that mental illness is uncommon. People think, “oh that can’t happen to me” when in reality, since this pandemic alone, 40.9% of people have experienced an increase in anxiety and depression. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental health disorders yearly, 1 in 25 American adults experience a serious mental illness, and suicude is the 2nd leading cause of death among Americans between 10 and 34 years of age. When put into perspective, many of us are suffering from a mental illness and we may not even know.
2. People with mental health issues are violent or dangerous
Another misconception that tends to negatively frame individuals with mental illness is that they are violent and/or dangerous. There is a tendency to emphasize a suggestive link between violence and mental illness when in fact it is not the case. In fact, people with a mental illness are more likely to be the victimes, rather than the culprit; approximately 7% of violent acts are committed by a person with a mental illness
3. Mental illness is permanent
While there are more serious mental health disorders that do not have a cure, there are several treatment plans put in place so that individuals do not have to suffer for the rest of their lives. However, recovery is possible with most mental illnesses; they are oftentimes temporary and severity of symptoms will decline over time. Most people are able to live fulfilling, meaningful happy lives when treated properly.
4. Symptoms of mental illness will go away on their own
Some individuals may experience relief from their symptoms as they get older, but more often than not, medical intervention is needed to provide that relief. Each treatment is unique to the individual; some may need medication, some may need talk therapy, or some may need a combination of both. The answer isn’t simple, but the fact is that most symptoms will not go away on their own as it is usually attributable to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
5. Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Comparing mental illness to a sign of strength or weakness is like comparing a physical disorder to strength and weakness — no one chooses to have it and it is not anyone’s fault. No one should be ashamed of their illness any more than they should be ashamed of any other medical condition.
6. Those with mental illness cannot work efficiently
It is possible that anyone suffering from a very serious mental illness can be unable to function on a daily basis, therefore unable to produce quality work. But, the majority of people with mental illnesses, on the other hand, may be just as effective as those who do not have mental illnesses; recent research showed that 62.7% of individuals with a mental health condition were employed.
7. Talk-therapy is not a successful treatment
Some may believe that talk-therapy is a waste of time, but research shows that 70 to 90% of individuals have reported improvement in their symptoms when they had talk-therapy in addition to their medication. There are several types of talk-therapies that are beneficial and now are often short-term.
8. Psychiatric medications are unsafe
Just like any other medication, if used correctly, psychiatric medications are both safe and effective — and in combination with talk-therapy, can be the most effective approach. People can be deterred from pursuing or continuing care if the myth that they are harmful continues to spread.
9. It is not possible to get mental health treatment during the pandemic
Since the start of the pandemic, many offices have closed and went remote. That is true of all mental health professionals as well. However, telehealth, or treatment through phone, FaceTime, or zoom has become more prevalent than ever before. This allows all individuals access to mental health treatment from the comfort of their own home.
10. You can’t prevent mental health problems
All mental health problems cannot be prevented as factors such as genetics and traumatic events play a role in the development of mental illness. However, you can take steps in order to improve and prevent further mental illness such as establishing healthy habits — a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise. Likewise, breaking out of negative mental patterns such as self-pity of rumination can also have a positive impact on your wellbeing.