I think it’s always important to review some of the myths about things, especially if it’s something important that affects you directly. So I found online a number of myths about mental health, and I’m going to address each one.
1/ Mental health problems don’t affect me.
I think by now that most of us at the very least know someone that’s had at least a run-in with mental illness. I think it’s something like 20% of American adults have, at least once in their life, experienced a mental health issue. This might be depression after a major trauma that eventually resolves itself, anxiety during a specific period of their life where they were under a lot of stress, or maybe a chronic illness that requires life-long treatment.
If you really honestly believe that you know no one that’s dealt with a mental health illness then you are either entirely unperceptive, not trusted with this information by those close to you, or living in a cave somewhere. I think that most of the people that I know have dealt with this in some form or another, either with themselves or someone that they love.
2/ Children don’t experience mental health problems.
When I was in college I volunteered with a lot of community medical programs and support groups. In a lot of these groups were parents with a child struggling with mental illness – anxiety, OCD, depression, eating disorders, etc. and they were there to learn how to support their kid through it, or looking for resources, or maybe just looking for someone in the same shoes as them – someone that gets it.
I know from personal experience that my battle began when I was in my mid-teens. It wasn’t diagnosed until I was almost 20, but knowing what I do now, a lot of my behavior and thought patterns were definitely a product of mental illness. I think I wasn’t diagnosed earlier because back in the late-90s, people just didn’t know what to look for. It wasn’t diagnosed in teens as much, and back then people really did have a completely different view of things. Luckily my parents learned from the experience, and when my (very much younger) brother started exhibiting signs when he was a pre-teen, they immediately got him into treatment.
3/ People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
How often do we still deal with this stereotype? We’re not murders, or rapists. We don’t assault random people walking down the street. In fact, people with mental illness are greatly more likely to be victims of crime, especially violent than psycho-typical people. I have to wonder if it’s because so many people with mental illness are still are still marginalized by society and forced into situations that aren’t safe – living on the streets, being stuck in an abusive relationship, and so forth.
4/ People with mental health problems, even those who are managing their illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.
It’s true that sometimes we need to take a break from work to manage an episode, get our feet back under us, etc. But by and large, most people with mental illness are productive members of society that hold jobs of all sorts, volunteer in their community, and have families. I remember when I was first diagnosed my mom crying to my stepdad that no one could know – my life would be ruined if people knew.
Now? I’m moving to a new job into a management position, I volunteer, I have a family. I keep the house running. Sure, there’s stress, but I manage it effectively through the help of pharmaceuticals and therapy. I’m a contributing member of society, and personally? I think that I’m doing a damn fine job.
5/ Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental problems, and people with mental illness can snap out if it if they try hard enough.
Of all of the myths on this list, this one pisses me off the most. I know a number of weak-willed people that don’t suffer from mental illness. In fact, some of the strongest people that I know have dealt with mental illness for at least a time in their life, if not chronically. We deal with it day in and day out and choose to keep going.
“Maybe if you exercise and get some sun you’ll feel better.” I just want to punch these people in the face. Gee! Why didn’t I think of that? Why am I wasting all of this money on meds and therapy and appointments with my shrink when this was the answer all along! /s Ugh. I hate these people.
6/ There is no hope for people with mental health problems. There is no hope of recovery.
Sure, there may not be “recovery” for a lot of us, and we’ll be dealing with these problems for the rest of our lives, but they can be managed and allow us to lead productive lives. See #4.
7/ Therapy and self-help area waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?
For most of us those pills are the Holy Grail. I admit that freely. But these pills allow us to be able to tackle the issues that we deal with in therapy. So yeah, the pill helps. But the journey to wellness is really through therapy.
So yeah. Myths and my responses. Your mileage my vary, as always, with my thoughts, but I feel like addressing these kinds of myths and fighting back against them is, in a way, our duty.