Friday October 10th is World Mental Health day – a day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilising efforts in support of mental health. This is the perfect opportunity to dispel the myths that shroud mental health issues around the world. Not one country in the world is so advanced that this mythology doesn’t still exist in some form.
According to the World Health Organization, 400 million people worldwide are affected by mental health issues, and only about twenty percent reach out for treatment. Part of this is the gross misinformation that exits on the topic.
Myths stem from misunderstanding, and the less people and their support systems really know about mental health, the less likely they are to be able to support themselves and others through especially difficult times.
Here are 5 common Mental Health Myths and the facts to set the record straight:
MYTH # 1:Issues of mental health are not true medical illnesses the way that high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes are. Those who have a mental illness are just ‘crazy’, they have lost their minds and can’t be helped.
FACT # 1: Mental health issues involve physiological changes, and like common chronic health issues, they are based in the body. The research shows that there are genetic and biological links for mental health issues, and that they can be treated effectively through insight and behaviour change as well as medication. People with any kind of mental health issues, small or large, can be helped.
Most importantly, like any condition of the body, if poor mental health that is easily treatable at first, goes untreated for long periods, it can create a long term change in your body that makes it more difficult to treat. Seeking support early is key.
MYTH # 2: Mental health issues are something others suffer from. This is not a problem for people “like us.”
FACT: # 2: Mental health issues are non-discriminatory. Anyone can potentially develop a mental illness, and many do, no matter sex, age, race, or economic status. The statistics suggest that all of us will struggle with symptoms of depression or anxiety at some point in our life and that we will have close friends and family with their own struggles at some point as well – we are all in this together.
MYTH # 3: Mental health issues result from a personality weakness, personal failure, inborn laziness, attention seeking or character flaws, and people could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough.
FACT # 3: Mental health issues are not the result of shortcomings in a person. Rather, they are the result of contextual obstacles that lead to, or happen alongside, biologically-based changes in brain chemistry that can be seen in changes in feelings and behaviors. Ignoring the problem, shaming and blaming do not help the condition. It takes courage to seek help, support your loved ones and the healthy choices they can make in difficult times.
MYTH # 4:We all go through hard times and we should just tough it out and move on.
FACT # 4: Emotional baggage is cumulative, as you collect it, it gets heavier over time, and your ability to hold back things that have happened to you in the past gets harder with each passing year. It’s important to truly process what has happened to allow you to learn from the experience and leave the baggage behind.
MYTH # 5: Mental Health issues are not preventable.
FACT # 5:As with physical health, it’s important to strengthen your ability to cope emotionally with life stresses and unforeseen distress. Mental Health prevention involves inoculating yourself against these stresses by preparing yourself with emotional abilities to help you overcome adversity. It isn’t possible to avoid all stress in life, but it is possible to be better prepared and more effective at dealing with these stressors when they arise, so they don’t leave as much long term damage.
Struggling with normal emotional ups and downs does not change who we are long term unless we let it. Seeksupport from those around you first and later from a psychologist if you are not able to feel like yourself again on your own. Seeking support can be the difference between a tough six months and a longer struggle. Be conscious of what you need, and compassionate enough with yourself to seek it.
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