“It is an odd paradox that a society, which can now speak openly and unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable, still remains largely silent when it comes to mental illness.” ~ Glenn Close
While we are becoming more and more versed in the struggles and realities of mental health, we still, as a society, have a long way to go. So many of us grapple with mental health that it’s slowly becoming less stigmatized or conveniently labeled and stowed away as “crazy”.
Even if you don’t suffer from any mental health issues (or are simply unaware of them), you know someone who does. I guarantee this. It is estimated that one in five adults experience some type of mental health problem.
Despite the strides we’ve made with open dialogue to understand these varied and difficult illnesses better, there are still myths that persist. Here are 5 of the most prevalent.
1) Children Don’t Experience Mental Health Issues
Several different factors can lead to a mental illness. These are primarily social, psychological and biological. So a young child that doesn’t necessarily have the best familial structure or self-esteem issues in early development can easily develop a mental illness.
The way that they exhibit this mental illness can vary. Children often attempt to self-soothe as best they can when faced with depression or anxiety, so certain coping mechanisms may start to become apparent.
2) All People Who Suffer From Mental Illness Are Inherently Dangerous
No. This too is simply untrue, and we have mainstream media to blame for this belief. Those who deal with mental illness are not dangerous because of their illness. They may exhibit behavior that seems strange to those who don’t understand the complexity of their condition, but this doesn’t automatically mean they’re dangerous.
There are far more sufferers of mental illness that simply go about their daily lives without anyone else even knowing. The ability to do this is of course contingent on the severity of their condition.
Those whose illnesses are worse aren’t inherently broken or wrong, and they aren’t predisposed to acting out in harmful or dangerous ways.
The conditions that precede violence in those who have mental illness are too complex to name here, and most likely pale in comparison to the social determinants. Condemning sufferers to such a generalization is irresponsible and inaccurate.
3) People Who Suffer From Mental Illnesses Can’t Hold A Steady Job
There are myriad types of mental illness that are often overlapping and challenging to diagnose. Certain types, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, require specific medication to improve the quality of the sufferer’s life.
However, as mentioned above, being diagnosed with a mental illness does not mean that some people don’t function and cope with the issue while still managing their daily life.
Some may find that particular prescription medication helps with this, while others use naturopathic aids to help boost their mood if they are struggling with depression, or ease their nerves if they are dealing with anxiety.
4) It’s Possible To Snap Out Of Mental Illness
This is one of the most harmful beliefs regarding mental illness, and it is a type of shaming similar to body-shaming that is only beginning to come to light. Anxiety and depression are often not a result of the individual being weak or lacking a particular amount of drive, but instead a chemical imbalance or biological factor.
Trauma and abuse history can also be contributing factors. It isn’t as simple as being marginally sad one moment and then fine the next.
Mental illness is not something you can just shake off, and for many, it’s simply not something they have control over. It’s in the brain. If all that people had to do to shirk off mental illness is try hard, very few people would suffer from it at all. It is much more intricate than that.
5) Mental Illness Isn’t ‘Real’ Illness
To assert this is downright offensive. If someone suffered from a broken arm or diabetes, we wouldn’t tell them just to try to heal it on their own or to “just wait it out.”
We give necessary care to physical ailments but not as much compassion and empathy to conditions that affect our mind; this isn’t fair, to ourselves or others.
Those who suffer from mental illness are not just dealing with the typical positives and negatives of life that we all experience, they have added distress that is a direct result of their condition. These health problems don’t go away on their own.
Our society has a bad habit of judgment, where instead we could be busy educating ourselves and providing the proper support for sufferers.