When it comes to mental health, there are a lot of misconceptions. Not having the correct information can contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health concerns in general. Take a look at the following list of 9 mental health myths and see if you have believed any of these. Then share your knowledge with others to help defeat these mental health myths about conditions that affect a larger percentage of people than you might think!
Myth #1. Mental Illness Is Rare
While you might think that mental illness is uncommon, the fact is that it personally affects approximately 20 percent of the population. This means that for every five people you know, chances are good that one of them is suffering or has suffered from the effects of a mental health condition. Keep in mind that most mental health conditions are not visible to others; that’s part of what makes them seem so mysterious. Also, many people don’t seek treatment for mild mental health conditions, so it’s possible that this number is under-reported.
Myth #2. Depression Is Just Sadness
Everyone feels sad from time to time, and sometimes we incorrectly say things like, “I’m so depressed,” when in actuality, we mean, “I feel sad right now.” Depression is not a type of sadness that lingers for a few hours or even a few days and then goes away. It’s a deep feeling of not only sadness but also hopelessness and despair that affects someone for at least two weeks (and sometimes for many weeks, months or even years). It may be triggered or exacerbated by an event that might make someone sad, but it doesn’t clear up on its own like a passing sadness or “the blues.”
Myth #3. People With Mental Health Conditions Are Dangerous
This is one of the most prevalent and incorrect mental health myths out there. People tend to be fearful of the unknown, and when they see someone with a mental health condition, they might assume that they are dangerous. While some people who commit heinous crimes are mentally ill, the vast, vast majority of those dealing with these concerns are not dangerous at all. They are not more likely to be violent than anyone else, and they often live completely normal lives.
Myth #4. Bad Parenting Causes Mental Illness
Many parents wonder if something that they did caused mental illness in their child or children. While severe abuse and neglect can trigger mental illness, most of the time, it’s caused by a combination of environmental and biological factors. This means that some things in the environment (which might or might not have had anything to do with the parents) and some things in the affected person’s genetic makeup (which are not under the control of the parents) contribute to the development of mental health issues. It does nobody any favors to blame parents for their children’s mental health problems, just as it would do nobody any favors to blame parents for the children’s physical health problems.
Myth #5. Positive Thinking Can Cure Mental Illness
While positive thinking does have a place in treating mental health conditions, it can by no means cure these conditions. Most of the time, treatment includes cognitive behavioral therapy or other “talk therapy,” lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medication. Lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise, getting enough sleep, joining social organizations, meditation, and getting outside more can help with symptoms, but they don’t cure the condition. If you know someone with a mental illness, encouraging them to follow a healthy lifestyle might be helpful, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s all they need to do.
Myth #6. People With Mental Health Conditions Don’t Live Normal Lives
As evidenced by the number of people living with mental illness, this is obviously a myth. You wouldn’t know that people all around you are dealing with mental health concerns unless they were particularly severe or if they told you. When you are out and about in public or at work, it’s very likely that a fifth of the people you interact with are dealing with some type of mental health issue. In addition, they’re going about their daily business of shopping, going to work, attending school, washing their dishes, walking their dog, caring for their children, and all of the other tasks you do each day.
Myth #7. The Mentally Ill Are Faking It
There is a misconception that people might be “faking” their anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. Sometimes this is assumed because those suffering from the conditions can generally live a normal life. Keep in mind that there are also many physical health conditions (diabetes and high blood pressure, for example) that don’t generally stop people from going to work, attending to children, and taking care of their homes. People with mental illnesses are doing what they need to do to live as normal a life as possible; they’re not faking their symptoms.
Myth #8. Mental Health Conditions Are Lifelong
The good news is that this one is untrue for many people! While some mental health conditions can last a lifetime, many are treatable and their symptoms will recede significantly over time. Relapses are always possible, and it’s important for people who have had mental health conditions to be aware of the signs that the issues are returning. Also, some types of mental illnesses do last a lifetime. Most of the time, these can be managed with medication and therapy.
Myth #9. A Mental Health Diagnosis Indicates Weakness
People with mental health conditions are generally very resourceful and strong; after all, they need to balance their treatment with their responsibilities. Going through daily life while struggling with any type of physical or mental health condition does not indicate weakness — in fact, it generally indicates the opposite!
Educate Others About Mental Health Myths
If you thought that any of these mental health myths were true, then that’s an indication that you can become more educated and also educate others. By spreading the correct information, society can become more accepting of mental health issues, which makes it easier for people to recognize that they have a problem and seek treatment.