Common Myths About Mental Health Debunked
Mental health – it is the one thing we all have in common, so why don’t we talk about it more? At Ditch the Label we believe that mental health should be talked about as often and as openly as physical health – it makes no sense that an ailment of the mind should be considered more shameful than an ailment of the body.
Unfortunately, although ill mental health is extremely common, a strong social stigma still persists. Those that suffer with mental health problems are often treated differently, or experience discrimination because of attitudes towards this factor.
When you think about how mental health problems are represented in the media, it is not surprising that we have been conditioned to perceive it as something negative or scary – have a think about how many horror films you have seen with the archetypal ‘mental asylum’ and how the inhabitants of such a place are portrayed, or how words like ‘psycho’, ‘crazy’, ‘nutter’ are all-too-flippantly batted around. Seeing such representations in the media we consume only serves to reinforce ideas that ill mental health is something we should fear or think badly of.
But here are the cold, hard facts: most people who experience mental health problems make a full recovery, or are able to manage them and continue living perfectly normal lives – especially if they have sought help early on.
To help challenge the stereotypes we are so often exposed to, Ditch the label debunked 9 common myths surrounding mental health:
1. Ill mental health isn’t treatable
We all have mental health and just like our physical health, sometimes we’re up and other times we’re down. We get ill and usually, we get better again. It is exactly the same with mental health. Most ailments can be easily treated with the right levels of emotional and sometimes, medicative support. Things like depression and anxiety can be overcome with emotional therapy and CBT.
2. You can’t prevent it from happening
Actually, to a degree you can prevent your mental health from deteriorating. Simple things like eating well and exercising regularly really do make the world of difference. In fact, a recent study in the journal Public Health Nutrition found that people who eat fast food were 51% more likely to develop depression than those who ate little to no fast food. Taking good care of your physical health is inextricably linked with the strengthening of your mental health.
3. Mental health doesn’t affect me
Right now, just like everybody else, you have mental health. You may feel perfectly fine and happy, but you still have mental health – that will never go away. At some point, you or somebody close to you is likely to experience a mental health ailment, because they are surprisingly common. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health ailment at some point.
4. If I’m mentally ill, I’ll be locked away
Maybe in the 1800s, when ill mental health was misunderstood but we have come a long way since then. The main reason people are sectioned is if they are an immediate danger to themselves or to other people. This basically means they are placed under the supervision of trained medical professionals who are there to help them get better. (It really isn’t how you see it in horror movies, trust us on that one.) You’re not going to be ‘locked away’ if you’re feeling generally low or anxious, for example. To clarify: people are only sectioned, generally, if they are dangerous.
5. People can control their mental health
If people treated physical health in the same way they do mental health, we’d all be in a bit of a mess. People who have mental health issues are often told to ‘forget about it’, ‘snap out of it’ or to ‘smile a little more’. For those who are suffering from things like depression, this is an impossible task. It’s like telling somebody with a broken leg to get over it and start walking around as normal – it is extremely inconsiderate, insensitive and unrealistic.
6. Once you have a mental health ailment, you have it for life
Whilst there is some evidence to suggest that those who have had an ailment can be more susceptible to mental health issues later on in life, it doesn’t mean they will. Roughly 25% of us will have some sort of mental health issue at some point and it usually doesn’t mean it’s with you for life. It’s just one of those things that needs to be worked through. For example, somebody may develop depression after the death of a loved one – it doesn’t mean they are going to be depressed for the rest of their life, it just means that they are feeling incredibly low and need help getting through it.
7. You have to take medication
This is treated on a case-by-case basis. Some people are given medication, whereas others do not require it. There is a lot of power in emotional support and therapy.
8. Ill mental health is a sign of weakness
This is by far one of the most damaging myths. The biggest killer of young men is suicide. Why? Because society tells them that it isn’t okay to talk about things and that they need to be physically and emotionally ‘strong’ at all times. So they bottle up emotion and don’t talk about it, which can lead to higher rates of mental health issues. This myth is like saying that catching a common cold is a sign of being physically weak. It isn’t, it’s just by chance that somebody gets ill. We wish it was as simple as controlling your mental health, but it unfortunately isn’t.
9. If you’re mentally ill, you can’t live a normal life
Most people can and most people will live a normal life with the appropriate levels of support. Some people need to make some changes and adjustments in order to aid in the recovery process, but it is rare people are unable to assume day-to-day living. For example, somebody who feels anxious in social surroundings may have a tendency to avoid social situations, but as part of their treatment plan, they may need to gradually increase the amount of exposure they have to such situations, by increasing the amount of time they spend in public places.
There you have it; 9 of the most common myths surrounding mental health debunked. If you suspect you are suffering from a mental health ailment and haven’t already spoke about it, we recommend you talk to your doctor, a family member or somebody from a charity like Mind.