Do you know Myths and Facts of Mental Illness?

Before diving into the conceptual ocean of mental health, it is initially important to understand about mental fitness, mental illness as well as difference of two. So what according to you mental health can be? Is it just being free from mental problems or psychological issues? May be not. According to World Health Organization (WHO),

“Mental health refers to the state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his/her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his/her community”.

It would be even better to say that mental health is more about an individual’s overall wellness rather than just absence of illness.

As per the mental illness is concerned, it includes health conditions which involves change in thinking patterns, behaviors, emotions or combination of them. It refers to a wide range of mental health disorders that affects one’s thoughts, behavioral acts and emotions. Mental illness can influence someone’s routine activities, his/her relationships with loved ones and even his/her physical health. It may also leads to work-life imbalance and compromises an individual’s resilience power.

After this quick understanding of these key words, let’s introduce some of the major myths and facts related to mental illnesses:

Myth: Mental illness can’t affect me.

Fact: Mental health problems are very common in nature. In this growing era of technology and fast life, almost every individual is suffering from some or the other psychological or mental issue, like anxiety, stress, depression etc.

Myth: Children and adolescents do not experience mental illness.

Fact: The age of childhood and adolescence is the age of transition in which they undergo numerous physical and mental changes and this may leads to several psychological disorders or ailments. In fact, child shows signs of warning can ask for treatment with his/her abnormal behavior.

Myth: People suffering from mental illness are unpredictable and violent.

Fact: Majority of the people suffering from mental health issues are not at all violent, in fact they are the victims of some violent acts. Only 3-4% people can be attributed as violent and unpredictable because of the severity or high intensity of mental illness.

Myth: People with mental illness can’t take the pain or stress to get into a job or perform some work.

Fact: There are numerous people with some or the other mental illness working so productively and actively that they don’t even realize that they are suffering from mental health problems i.e. they are equally productive, work efficient, punctual and motivated as others.

Myth: Mental illness relates to personality weakness or character flaws.

Fact: There is no connection of mental illness and lazy behavior or weak efforts towards work since it is one’s personal preference rather than effect of his/her illness. Any normal individual can also show such flaws and disorganized signs.

Myth: People with mental illness can never recover.

Fact: It is one of the biggest myth people hold, which is absolutely incorrect since, with the help of proper psychological treatment, medical help and caregiver’s support, almost all the mental illnesses can get better and individual may recover completely. All they need is love, care, proper treatment and community support.

Myth: Psychotherapies and self help are a waste of time. It’s better to take medications.

Fact: No one method can individually treat a mental illness. There should be a combination of medications plus psychological therapies to gain maximum benefit. In fact, medication for an extended period of time might leave some deteriorating post effects on body but self help and therapies are always beneficial for longer terms.

Myth: I can’t help a person suffering from mental illness.

Fact: If you are a family member or friend or relative of a person who is suffering from mental illness, then you can definitely play a vital role in his/her treatment because, reaching out for help, positive energy, motivated environment, good times with loved ones, sharing life experiences and supportive environment helps a person the most to get treated.

Myth: People are faking their mental illness for attention.

Fact: Mental illness is as real as physical one because it does shows frequent real warning sign which needs to be diagnosed. There is a clear difference between people who fake it and those who are actually suffering. It’s just that a layman or the untrained eye cannot judge it properly and name it fake or a limelight act. It is, thus, very important to diagnose mental illness before it turns lethal.

Myth: Mental illnesses are unreal in nature.

Fact: Mental illnesses or mental health problems are not unreal but are taken for granted. The way, we don’t expect a person who broke his/her leg to just ‘get over it’ with time, the same, we can’t do it with a mentally ill person because they too are facing real problems and require effective treatments.

Myth: Mental illness is just an excuse for poor behavior.

Fact: Person suffering from a mental health problem may indulge into some acts which are unexpected or strange but, judging them on the basis of their behavior and ignoring their illness is our failure. People with mental illness feel way conscious, ashamed to be around and extremely humiliated which ultimately makes their behavior unpredictable.

Myth: Bad parenting is one of the sole reasons of mental illness.

Fact: Mental illness arises out of multiple factors such as genetics, environment, past life experiences etc. and no single factor can be solely responsible for such illness but the fact also states that familial love, care and support plays a vital role in one’s recovery.

Myth: Seeking help for mental illness makes a person looks crazy in front of others.

Fact: This is one of the greatest myths regarding mental illness which must be changed. Seeking help from a mental health professional is a sign of awareness, strength and will to recover. One should not avoid professional help if his/her health is not getting better just out of irrational thought that ‘what others will think?’ The wisest and audacious way of coping up is to seek help as early as possible for faster recovery and effective results.

Myth: People with mental illness own poor intellect.

Fact: Mental illness has nothing to do with the intellect. According to studies, most of the people having mental health problems are of average and above average intelligence. Some of the genius personalities are Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Leo Tolstoy, Isaac Newton etc.

Myth: People with mental illness are ‘psycho’ and should be locked away.

Fact: Doing this with a mentally ill individual would be the dumbest act one can perform. There are numerous people who suffer from anxiety or depression but live a normal life and should be treated in normal settings with the help of proper care and support. Labeling them ‘psycho’ would be a harsh behavior which may demotivated and disturb them.

Myth: Addiction is a lifestyle choice which further leads to mental illness.

Fact: Addiction can be an output of abundant factors such as genetics, environment, situational problems, emotional issues, psychiatric illness etc. which definitely doesn’t comes out of someone’s choice for his lifestyle. It is very difficult and painful for an addict to shed his/her bad habit.

These are some of the most common myths among general public which must be exchanged with the facts in order to spread awareness, positive approach and supportive environment for mentally ill individuals, caregivers as well as public in general.

Being a mental health professional, it is my prior responsibility to breakdown such myths and raise the facts to the community. On the other hand, being an aware citizen, it is our collective accountability to clear out all myths and strive for facts.

About the Author

Nikhil Chaudhary
Psychologist.

Mr Nikhil Chaudhary has done M.A. in Psychology and currently pursuing a PhD in Psychology.

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