May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let us break the stigma associated with mental illness!
In a report published last October 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified mental disorders as one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide. In fact, it is expected that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives
Globally, there are around 450 million people who are currently suffering from mental problems, but nearly two-thirds of them are not getting professional help. They choose to suffer in silence, mostly because they worry about the stigma and discrimination that they might face if their condition becomes known. Many myths and misconceptions about the mentally ill still abound, and people with symptoms are afraid that their loved ones will shun them, or their careers and employment will be affected.
Below are some common mental health myths:
1. You’re either mentally ill or mentally healthy
First of all, we do not hold our physical bodies to the same either/or standard — we know that it is possible to have the physical health of an Olympic athlete, or be bedridden forever, or to be a relatively normal person with poor eyesight or high cholesterol.
The same is true with our minds – mental health is a spectrum and a person may fall anywhere within that range. They can be severely mentally ill (i.e. diagnosed with schizophrenia or major depression), or simply have an emotional problem or two. Even if you think you are doing well, there is a good chance you are not 100% mentally healthy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only about 17% of adults are in a state of “optimal” mental health.
2. Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
Truth: Many people automatically assume that people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions are mentally “weak.” But mental strength is not the same as mental health. Just as someone with diabetes can still run a marathon, someone with depression can still be mentally strong. In fact, many people with mental health issues are incredibly mentally strong – it’s how they are still able to do what society expects of them (go to work, be a parent, etc) despite feeling the way they do.
3. You can’t prevent mental health problems.
Truth: It’s true that not all mental health problems are avoidable – factors like genetics and traumatic life events make some mental disorders inevitable. But there are steps you can take to improve your mental health and prevent further mental illness – establishing healthy habits (i.e. good sleep, exercise) and getting rid of the destructive ones (i.e. comparing yourself to what you see on social media) can go a long way in making your mind better.
4. People with mental illness are unstable/crazy/unhinged/violent.
Truth: Perpetrators of violent crimes most likely have a mental illness, but not everyone with a mental illness becomes a criminal. In fact, many people with mental health problems are highly productive members of the community.
5. Mental health problems are forever.
Truth: While not all mental illnesses are fully curable (example: schizophrenia requires lifelong treatment even if the symptoms have subsided), most mental health problems are treatable, using a combination of medicine and therapy, and patients are able to return to their regular lives and activities soon after.
People with mental health problems should not be shunned. Just like we would never abandon someone with the flu, or discriminate against someone with cancer, we must also offer care and support to those who are suffering from mental illnesses.
Written by Jaclyn of MindNation
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