Even though our understanding of mental health has come a long way, myths around it still exist, and they need to be challenged if we are ever going to be able to really help people with mental health problems. Here are 9 myths about mental illness. How much do you know?
Mental health myths
- People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable
Despite what you’ve seen in the papers and on TV, people with a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. The truth is that people with severe mental health problems like schizophrenia are more likely to be the victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators.
- People with mental health problems can just ‘snap out of it’
Having a mental health problem doesn’t mean that someone is lazy, weak, or ‘putting it on.’ There are many possible causes of mental ill health and most people need help to get better.
- Recovery from mental illness isn’t possible
People do get better, and many people recover completely, and are able to function, work, and have close, healthy relationships. There is a bigger focus on supporting people in the community now, and many more people have awareness of mental health which removes some of the stigma and helps people recover more quickly.
- There’s nothing I can do for people who have a mental health problem
Friends, family, and colleagues can actually do a lot to help people get the help they need. You can let someone know you’re there for them and learn the facts about mental health and help tackle stigma too.
- Only people who have been in the military get PTSD
While it’s true that many servicemen and women suffer from PTSD, it’s also an illness that affects around 7% of the general population. When people witness traumatic events, or they’re the victim of crime, for example, it can have lasting effects on someone’s life. Sufferers can find it impossible to function day to day, and they might suffer from depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and insomnia. This can lead many people to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, which then brings its own problems.
- Mental health isn’t as important as physical health
You simply can’t separate the two. Almost one in three people with a chronic physical health problem also has a mental health problem like depression or anxiety. People with severe mental illness die up to 20 years earlier than the general population. Physical health and mental health are interlinked and they impact upon each other. Improvements in health care for physical health problems have not been met with the same improvements in mental health care; only 6% of the budget for health research is dedicated to mental health despite the fact that it’s a major cause of ill health and disability.
- What’s the point in self-care and therapy when you can just take a pill?
Treatment for mental health problems can include medication, therapy, lifestyle adjustments, or a combination of these. Just ‘taking a pill’ is rarely the answer.
- Doctors hand out antidepressants too easily, and they don’t work
Doctors won’t hand out medication because someone is ‘sad.’ Antidepressants are prescribed in cases of moderate and severe depression. Studies have shown that people are 10 times more likely to experience an improvement in symptoms if they have had medication prescribed appropriately.
- People with mental health problems can’t work
All of us probably work, or have worked with someone with a mental health problem. Would that surprise you? As long as their condition is self-managed, and they are receiving the right support, including support from their doctor, therapist, friends and family, and their employer, there is no reason why people with mental health problems can’t be happy and productive in the workplace.
Our Mental Health First Aid aims to raise awareness about mental health. It looks at what mental health is and how to challenge stigma, common mental health problems, looking after your own mental health and wellbeing, and how to support someone who is mentally unwell and might be distressed.
For more information on any of our mental health awareness training courses, click here.