7 Mental Health Myths Debunked By Experts Who Are Helping Us Defeat The Stigma
Here’s an interesting statistic for you: Research from the UK mental health charity Mind suggests that one in four people will develop or experience at least one mental health disorder in their lives, but will go untreated due to the stigma surrounding mental illness. The World Health Organization observes Oct. 10 as World Mental Health Day in order to spread awareness and strive toward a day when mental illness is no longer seen as a sign of weakness, but rather accepted for what it is: a range of mood, thinking, and behavioral medical disorders. Still, can anybody explain why are there so many mental health myths floating around if so many of us endure these struggles at one point or another?
For starters, a significant part of the stigma is that many people who have not, or do not currently suffer from a mental illness, tend to either choose to ignore the issue, or show little compassion for those suffering because they have difficulty understanding it themselves.
Sarah Romotsky, RD, science communications lead at Headspace, tells Elite Daily that many believe "mental health only needs to be a focus for those who have been clinically diagnosed," or those who are suffering from these psychological struggles. But, she continues, "mental health is much broader than most think. It refers to both positive and negative emotions that many of us feel on a daily basis."
Shying away from the conversations that explore mental illness will only further blur the lines between myth and fact. Because mental illness is not a physical ailment that can be treated overnight, many people are hesitant to sit down and really try to understand the complex nature of it all and, in my opinion, that's pretty damn unacceptable.
We reached out to a few experts, who have helped weigh in and debunk some of the most common mental health myths plaguing the topic in order to shed some light on a very real issue that demands our attention today, and every day going forward.
1. It's Not "Normal" To Feel Angry
I'd like to point out that we are all human beings with human emotions, and that one of the strongest human emotions is anger. It is completely normal — healthy, even — to feel anger toward something or someone that is bothering us. But this is not the issue those who suffer with a mental illness are grappling with here.
According to Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC, the issue with anger is not that we feel it, but how we express it. She tells Elite Daily,
The truth is that anger is a very healthy, normal human emotion that has a purpose, and the purpose is to help us survive in moments of threat.
The issue becomes how we express our anger. So, it’s not that anger is bad, but we have to be in tune with how we express our anger.
2. Medication Is The Only Solution
I experienced feelings of depression when I was in college, and the first thing my doctor prescribed me were some seriously strong anti-depressants that made me feel like a vegetable.
Pills didn't make me feel better; in fact, I didn't feel at all. Taking these kinds of meds made me feel numb to the world around me, and all I wanted to do was sleep late and ignore everyone.
Of course, I'm not saying pills should be ruled out of the equation. You don't need me to tell you medication can absolutely help some people cope with mental health disorders. But medication isn't always the right solution for everyone, nor does it always solve the issue entirely.
Maria Ulmer, licensed marriage and family therapist and chief operating officer at Summit Behavioral Health, tells Elite Daily,
Mental illness affects individuals differently. Clinical strategies that can help manage the symptoms can include counseling or medication, or sometimes a combination of the two.
When working with a professional, an individualized treatment plan will help set a road map for individuals to feel empowered in managing their symptoms.
3. Mental Illnesses Can't Be Treated
It can definitely take some time to find a way to cope that works for you when it comes to living with a mental illness. Whether you choose to take a mental health day when it feels necessary for you, or you attend regular therapy sessions, putting in that effort is always worth whatever trials and tribulations you may encounter along the way.
Ulmer tells Elite Daily that, because everyone's circumstances are unique, "some have a more difficult time adjusting to mental illnesses relating to life events." However, therapeutic resources like counseling, support groups, and even medication can all help the process. Be patient about finding what works best for you, because trust me, it will be worth the effort.
4. Authority Figures Are Unable To Lead If They Suffer From A Mental Illness
The stigma around mental illness seems to be 10 times stronger in the workplace, which is why that is the theme of this year's World Mental Health Day. Unfortunately, most of our time is spent at or thinking about work, which means its stressors definitely have a hand in mental health. The truth is, employees and leaders alike don't want to be seen as "weak" or unfit to perform. So many people wind up believing that keeping things on the low-down is the better (maybe even only) option.
Corporate counselor Soulaima Gourani tells Elite Daily that this way of thinking is without a doubt a myth that needs debunking ASAP:
Too many still believe that leaders with mental health problems can't (or shouldn't) hold a job or office. This is not the truth at all; it is a myth that leaders are superior (resistant) to mental health issues. In fact, years of pressure and stress and responsibility make them vulnerable to mental problems, because they have to cope with the demand and pressure.
Leaders suffering from a mental health illness can be great leaders — sometimes even better leaders. Just think of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr (both suffered from depression), and Winston Churchill also suffered from depression. Do what you can to stay mentally healthy, but don't think your career is over just because of mental challenges.
5. Those Who Suffer From Mental Illness Are Usually Violent
During a study performed in 2009, psychologists focused on the connection between convicted criminals and mental illness. While a lot of people are quick to assume that these types of violent criminals lash out as a result of grappling with a mental illness, the results showed that only 18 percent had a diagnosed mental health disorder.
Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, executive director at Maryland House Detox, Delphi Behavioral Health, tells Elite Daily that while it's "easy to say that mass shootings and acts of terror are done by those who are mentally ill, that is unjust to those who are struggling with mental health illness."
6. Mental Illness Doesn't Require Professional Help
If you're struggling with a mental illness, and are scared or ashamed to reach out for professional help, trust me, I've been there. I am not a doctor, so while I obviously cannot offer you professional advice, I can advise that you do not suffer in silence.
Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente national leader for mental health and wellness, explains that seeking professional treatment can go a long way. He tells Elite Daily,
...research has shown that treatment for depression and other mental health issues does work.
For example, the great majority of people treated for depression and panic disorder can get much better with treatment. Not seeking treatment leads to delays in recovery, and can lead to these issues becoming long-term conditions.
7. Eating Disorders Are Not A Form Of Mental Illness
Those who suffer from eating disorders experience a stigma all their own, but when it comes down to it, eating disorders are a form of mental illness. They cannot be easily controlled and require professional help, but oftentimes, those with an ED opt to suffer in silence.
Dr. Allison K. Chase, executive director of Eating Recovery Center, Austin, tells Elite Daily,
Anxiety has become more talked about in society and our culture today, but eating disorders still hold a stigma and a lot of shame around them.
Many don’t realize, eating disorders are not simply about food. They can serve as a coping mechanism psychologically, but there are underlying biological and genetic predispositions as well. The part that people forget is eating disorders are very much a mental illness with a huge physical component — not only on the outside, but with internal medical complications as well.
For additional information about Eating Recovery Center, call 877-789-5758, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit eatingrecoverycenter.com to speak with a Masters-level clinician.
Additionally, if you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1‑800‑273‑TALK (8255), or log onto their Live Online Chat. Remember that you don't deserve to suffer in silence, and help is always available in one form or another, if and when you need it.