Mental Health - 10 Myths DebunkedJul 12, 2023
There has been, for a very long time, a stigma associated with mental health problems. People are not ashamed of talking about their physical health issues, no matter how trivial or serious. But when it comes to mental health, in any form, it is a topic that is not only avoided, it is one that even the person suffering from it may refuse to accept. Luckily this is now changing and the fact that celebrities like Virat Kohli and Deepika Padukone are talking about the mental health problems they have faced is slowly lifting the shroud of shame and secrecy that enveloped it and prevented effective treatment that could cure the condition from being given.
Before talking about the various myths and misconceptions that surround the topic of mental health, there is one fact that must be emphasised:
- No one wants to have mental health problems, just as no one wants to be sick or injured.
- Mental health problems, like physical ones, may have various causes ranging from lifestyle choices, physical illness or injury and inherited traits.
- Most mental health ailments can be treated so patients can return to normal healthy lives.
- A person who has suffered a fracture deserves our sympathy and assistance to recover, but not our pity – there is no need for it. The same applies to a person with a mental health issue.
Myths And Misconceptions
Everyone has suffered from some physical illness at some time, whether it is a slight cold or a severe medical condition. Similarly, everyone has suffered from some form of mental ailment – whether it is a short mild bout of depression, a phobia that affects their ability to function or a psychological problem that causes them to retreat from reality. Understanding physical health issues is the first step in overcoming them. The same principle applies to mental health issues.
- Mental illness is not a real illness: Mental illness needs treatment because it is a real illness. We do not tell people with broken bones to forget about it and return to normal activities. We need to treat mental illness the same way. We do not blame a person with a broken leg for using crutches during his recovery. Why should we blame a person with mental health issues for seeking professional help and support?
- Mental illness affects other people, not me: A person with a good driving record may think he is safe on the road, but an accident could happen for no fault of his own. Anyone can be hit by a drunk driver. And anyone can fall prey to mental illness, even those who think they are mentally strong.
- Mental illness is a good excuse for bad behaviour: Some forms of mental illness can indeed cause types of behaviour that others think is strange. It must be remembered that it is the illness that is causing this behaviour, and it is not in the person’s control. We do not blame a person with a lung infection for coughing, so why blame a person with a mental condition for actions caused by the illness?
- People with mental illnesses are dangerous to others: This myth arises from a fear of the unusual. When a person with mental illness acts in an unusual manner, it often unsettles others, even if it has no direct impact on them. This is because of an instinctive human reaction to be uncomfortable with acts that are out of the ordinary. If we know a person is blinking his eye because there is a speck of dust in it, we think it is normal but are not threatened by it. If a person has a mental illness that causes the eye to blink, the threat to us is the same, but we feel uncomfortable and wonder if it is a sign of danger.
- Mental illness affects those who are weak and cannot handle stress: Not all mental problems are caused by stress. Even if they are and mental problems arise, it could be because the patient is so aware and has such a detailed perception of the parameters of a stressful problem, he is able to appreciate its full dimensions far more than others. Also, the effect of stress varies from person to person. Mental illness is not a sign of weakness.
- People with mental illnesses cannot work: With the right support, people with mental illness can be very good at the work they do. In fact, any extra input the employer makes to support the employee may be more than compensated by the dedication that such support creates in the employee. Also, at times, the different perspectives that such people may have could offer new approaches to problems that may be beneficial to the employer.
- People cannot recover from mental illness: People can and do recover from mental illness and live prosperous and productive lives full of strong bonds with others. In fact, the experience they have been through often makes them mentally stronger than those who have never experienced such illnesses.
- It is easy to spot a person with mental illness: This is a dangerous stereotype promoted by films and TV. Mental illness can take many forms and only a very small percentage of those who suffer from mental conditions behave in the manner depicted on screens. Most people with mental ailments live normal lives and often others have no clue about the condition. The illness affects the patient, not others and such a person is not “mad” or “insane” any more than a person with a slightly upset stomach is in a critical condition.
- Children do not have mental problems: Children can have mental problems and in many cases, the signs manifest themselves at a young age. This could be a good thing as it means that treatment can begin at an early age which increases its potential effectiveness and enables the child to reach adulthood with the problems behind him and a bright future ahead.
- Old people naturally become depressed: Depression is not the inevitable outcome of aging. Seniors may have a worldview that is influenced by their many years of experience, but that view has value because it is based on the knowledge that has been acquired. If it results in some negative attitudes, that is natural. A person who has suffered an electric shock in the past will always be careful around wires.
If you are suffering from any form of mental illness or have a loved one who is suffering, there is no shame in getting treatment. Just as it is not just normal but also essential for a person with jaundice or some other diseases to get treatment, so too it is normal and essential for those with mental issues to get the treatment they need to recover. Do not hesitate or feel embarrassed. Go to a hospital with a specialized Psychiatry Department. This is where you will find the specialists and most modern and effective treatments that will maximize the recovery and return that patient to a better quality of life and improved level of well-being. Remember, an illness is being treated. The fact that it is mental and not physical just changes the type of treatment that is required.
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