Skip the stigmas, and stick to the facts.
We’ve come a long way in the history of mental healthcare. Only 100 years ago, someone suffering from mental illness would be subjected to treatment that we would consider nothing short of barbaric. And while we’re miles away from Bedlam in terms of how we treat mental health patients, there remains progress to be made. “Mental health” as a term carries with it stigmas and misconceptions. Here are five of the most common—and unfortunately most persistent.
You can “decide” to feel better
Unfortunately, many of those who do not understand mental illness seem to think that a person can just “snap out of it.” This is addressed in one of our favorite cartoons (check it out here). Mental illness is far more nuanced than that and seriously—if it were as easy as “choosing to feel better,” wouldn’t all of us do it?
It’s a sign of weakness
Only “weak” people suffer from mental health issues, right? Wrong. For so long, this notion has kept people from getting the treatment they deserve. Luckily, more and more supposed “tough guys” are speaking out about mental health struggles and are normalizing the truth that mental illness can strike anyone, even those at the top of their game.
Medications are bad and you’ll be dependent on them forever if you start
This myth needs to go away, but, as is the case among the anti-vaccinator crowd, the idea that modern pharmaceuticals are bad is still here. Working with a doctor, patients can find great relief from symptoms with medications and no, most are not habit forming. Your provider can help you find the best way to stop using them when you decide you no longer need medication.
Talk therapy doesn’t work
Talk therapy—meeting in a mental health professional’s office and talking about your feelings and experiences—has been praised as the silver bullet and also derided as total bologna. In fact, it’s somewhere in between. For many, talk therapy is a literal life-saver. For others, specifically for those who have experienced trauma, a different kind of treatment may be necessary. However, talk therapy is usually always the best place to start.
People with mental illness are “damaged goods”
Not only are people who have overcome mental illness not damaged goods, studies have shown that they are more empathetic, better leaders, and better bosses than those who have not experienced a mental health challenge.
Mental health is slowly getting the recognition it deserves, while those who suffer from mental health afflictions are helping to take the shame and stigma out of it. But it shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of those who suffer to fix the problem. We can all do our part to “bust” the all too common mental health myths we encounter on a daily basis. It might just save a life.