6 Mental Health Myths We Should Debunk

by Vivian Bens
6 min read

M

aking positive life choices depends highly on the state of our mental health. Mental health includes our psychological and emotional well-being. It is responsible for how we think, feel, act, and react. A plausible amount of people experience mental health problems at different phases of life, so it’s not uncommon, but it also comes as a relief to know that help is available.

Some key factors that contribute to temporary or chronic mental health issues include:

• Trauma

• Abuse

• Family history of mental illness

Any of these factors could affect the mood and behavior of anyone suffering from mental illness. Especially in countries across Africa where mental health awareness is still low, the stigma surrounding mental illness seems to kill patients faster than the illness itself.

Mental health issues are not a dead end, people recover and lead healthy lives. We need to be aware of, and debunk unnecessary myths about mental health issues, to ensure more people become comfortable seeking help.

Here are 6 mental health myths and misconceptions we should all destroy…

#1. The mentally ill are violent and should be feared

It is convenient to believe that someone suffering from a mental illness should be considered violent. However, studies have shown that barely 7.5% of crimes are linked to mental illness.

On the contrary, they are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes. In cases where a person suffering from mental illness becomes violent, it has been found that most of these actions were done in self-defense. This shows it’s just a myth hovering over mental health. The stigma comes from a misplaced fear of people living with mental illnesses. Bottom line: Treat the mentally ill like you’d want to be treated. They are humans too.

#2. You can just snap out of it

“You can snap out of it, if you really want to,” “Get over it already, it’s taking too long,” “Try and put yourself together.” If you have ever said this to someone suffering from a mental illness, maybe you made them feel worse than better.

That might have been the reason you could never seem to reach them because these statements are void of empathy. People who suffer from mental health issues cannot stop being sad or choose to become happier all of a sudden like it’s a switch. Sometimes, you cannot cure mental health issues by personal strength and willpower. It is not a character.

flaw or a choice, but an illness that needs to be treated. It should be perceived with as much empathy as physical sickness.

#3. People who consider suicide are selfish and cowards

This has to be one of the most insensitive misconceptions about people suffering from mental health issues. They are not just “thinking of themselves”, but have reached a level of helplessness that dying seems like the only way to end their suffering. They are not seeking attention or crying out for help anymore, but rather experiencing a serious mental breakdown caused by an impending mental illness, traumatic life situations, or both.

We agree with C. Joybell C, who says; “Open your mind to the world and the many different ways that can be found in it, before making hasty judgments of others. After all, the very thing you judge from where you are maybe something different in meaning on the other side of the world. The problem with making hasty judgments is that it will eventually emphasize your ignorance.”

#4. You can’t recover from a mental health illness

Many believe that once mentally ill, always mentally ill. On the contrary, countless people have fully recovered from mental health issues. There are lots of treatments and therapies available to help people with mental health issues, but the first step is to reach out for help. The more serious the mental health issue, the more deliberate you need to be about recovery.

It will likely require a lifestyle change and conscious efforts to take charge of certain areas of your life that could trigger a relapse. Life might never go back to exactly the way things were before the illness, but insanity is doing the same thing all over again and expecting a different result. Making positive lifestyle changes is always advised, even for people who are not struggling with their mental health. Life goes on as we flow with the tide.

#5. Therapy is a waste of time

Lots of us have been seen as sissies for seeing a therapist. It’s seen as a sign of weakness, because you should “man up” and take your issues by the horns, instead of whining about them to your fellow human. On the contrary, it takes a lot of strength for a person suffering from mental health issues to reach out and opt for therapy. This should be encouraged

instead of being frowned at by society.

Research has shown that therapy has played a vital role in treating mental illness, and 70-90% of patients reported improvement when they started merging therapy with their medications. Most people fear undressing for circumcision, because it brings up painful memories locked away, and they fear the effects of these carefully tucked-in and buried memories on them.

The best part of therapy is that it provides solutions for these long-term issues, and brings closure and healing.  According to Fred Rogers; “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that’s mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

#6. Only certain people can have mental health issues

Unbelievably, we relegate mental health issues to a certain type of people. Some say it happens to the poor or individuals who had a rough childhood.

News flash! Our mental health can fluctuate at different times in our lives, just like our physical health, and it is not a respecter of social status or age.

Signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing a mental illness

Note: These are just a few pointers and don’t include all the symptoms of mental illnesses, because different individuals exhibit varying symptoms of mental illness, but they can help detect some mental health issues in you or a loved one.

• Paranoia or hallucinations (such as hearing voices)

• Depression.

• Isolating yourself from friends or normal activities.

• Unable to cope with stress, your feelings, or things that should seem easy to handle.

• Irrational fear, outbursts of anger, extreme sadness, feeling unworthy, unexplained hostility, and violence.

• Nursing thoughts of self-harm or hurting others.

• Drug abuse and alcohol dependence.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, please contact a mental health professional, and speak with a family member or close friend, to get the help you deserve.

“Take your time healing, as long as you want. Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. How could they know how long it will take to heal you?” ~A. Bertoli

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