These days, it’s more common than ever to discuss mental health casually, especially in the workplace and with friends. And that’s a good thing. Starting conversations means that people who are struggling don’t have to do so on their own, but mental health concerns becoming a more common part of our conversations also come with a slew of difficulties.
Not everyone is as open or as educated about certain topics, and it’s easy to get bogged down in misinformation and misconceptions about a very broad, yet complex, subject.
This article aims to debunk seven common mental health misconceptions to foster a more informed and compassionate understanding of mental well-being. Let’s have a look at some statements that you’re likely to overhear in a casual conversation and find out exactly what’s wrong with them.
Debunking 7 Mental Health Misconceptions
As we move towards a society that can embrace mental health conditions as a fact of life, we also need compassionate individuals to help those who need it most.
As you peek into these imagined conversations, think about how you’d incorporate an online Masters in Mental Health Counseling into your five-year plan.
1. “You’ve got depression? And anxiety? That’s pretty rare.”
Mental health conditions affect a significant portion of the world’s population. The World Health Organisation (WHO) found that one in four people will experience a mental health issue at some point during their lives.
Understanding that these conditions can affect everyone can promote empathy and encourage an environment where people can feel more supported about disclosing their conditions.
2. “My daughter says she’s depressed, but it’s just a phase. Everyone gets a little down sometimes.”
Unfortunately, this is a pretty common perspective about mental health issues, as some people believe that they are transient in nature and will “go away on their own”.
In fact, many mental health conditions are chronic and require specialist treatment in order to resolve them. Ignoring symptoms can make the issue worse, and in family environments can have long-lasting consequences on relationships.
3. “People who have mental health conditions are just weak.”
Another misconception is that only people who are unstable or weak experience mental health issues. There’s no discrimination when it comes to who is affected by mental health conditions, especially not in relation to strength or character. It’s part of a universal human experience, and especially given the previous statistics about its prevalence, it could happen to anyone.
It’s important to be empathetic, especially if you’re not aware of someone’s mental health condition. Being compassionate to someone who is open about their condition can be a great way to make others feel more comfortable about sharing those parts of themselves within a community.
4. “You’re unmedicated? Isn’t that, like, dangerous?”
People misinformed about mental health can liken it to a basic physical diagnosis and must be treated pharmacologically. This is inaccurate for two reasons: it can make people feel like something is “wrong” with them, and it can simplify a very complex treatment process.
Unlike bacterial infections or a bad headache, there isn’t a cure-all pill for mental health conditions. While medication can be an incredible part of managing a mental health condition, a holistic approach recognizes how many factors must be considered when tackling these sorts of issues.
Medication must be used alongside therapy, counseling, and changes to an individual’s lifestyle in order to sustainably manage their condition. By dispelling this myth, we can encourage the view that treatment of mental health conditions is nuanced and goes beyond what we’re used to seeing when someone is physically ill.
5. “I’ve heard he’s bipolar. I’m worried he’ll get violent.”
Correcting this misconception may be one of the most important things that you’ll see on this list. Individuals with mental health conditions being treated as inherently dangerous or violent is incredibly damaging for a number of reasons, as the unfounded myth perpetuates a cycle of fear and contributes to the stigmatization of these individuals.
It should go without saying that the vast majority of people who suffer from mental health conditions pose no threat to others. The repetition and sensationalization of this misconception close off conversations about the topic and can hinder people from sharing their experiences, making them feel unsafe and lonely within a community.
Debunking this myth is an important step to fostering a compassionate understanding of how people navigate their own mental health journeys.
6. “Sure, they’ve got anxiety, but what am I meant to do about it?”
This prevalent misconception disregards the power one person can have to change someone’s day. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that only 20% of adults received any sort of mental health treatment in the past year, and this can be attributed to a lack of a proper support network in the lives of people living with mental health issues.
Friends, family, and coworkers can all play an important role in making someone feel safe, cared for, and supported, and a gesture as simple as asking someone if they are doing okay can be the first step for someone to get the proper help that they need.
7. “She’s only a kid. How could they get depressed?”
Mental health in childhood is a complex topic and is often misunderstood as it occurs during a period when the brain is developing at a rapid pace.
Contrary to this myth, common conditions such as anxiety, depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can manifest themselves in the early stages of someone’s life.
It’s important that early intervention is destigmatized so that positive mental health outcomes can be promoted in children and young people.
Recognizing these issues early on can also lead to better outcomes later on in life, especially if the person has the tools to handle the intricacies of their condition early on.
Debunking mental health misconceptions is a key step towards creating communities that can understand each other better. Living in a world that is more compassionate is something that we all should strive for, and this exploration has given examples of where that compassion and understanding currently fall short.
By challenging these misconceptions in everyday conversations, we can contribute to breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to find help when they need it, and when to recognize that someone in their community is in need. In doing so, we can build a society that understands its diversity and creates a healthier future for everyone.