Those of us that live with mental illness have all been up close and personal with the barriers that stand in our path to recovery. The stigma surrounding this disease all too often prevents us from moving forward in our journey. It is time to advocate for ourselves and to educate others.
Here are 10 commonly heard myths to talk about to help others, and perhaps ourselves, understand the world of mental illness:
- MENTAL ILLNESS ISN’T REALLY AN ILLNESS … the fact is, mental illnesses are not “regular” reactions to the ups and downs in life. A mental illness can create distress, it doesn’t go away on it’s own and is a medically recognized health problem with effective treatments. We can’t “just get over it” any more than if we had diabetes, cancer or a broken leg.
- MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE JUST EXCUSES FOR POOR BEHAVIOR … depending on what type of illness a person has, behaviors may seem strange or unusual to people who don’t understand. We don’t choose to have this illness and it is the illness that is behind our behavior. These behaviors make us feel embarrassed. We feel ashamed of ourselves.
- BAD PARENTING CAUSES MENTAL ILLNESS … no one factor causes mental illness. It is a complicated disease stemming from biology, genetics and the environment in which we live.
- MENTAL ILLNESS WILL NEVER EFFECT ME … the reality is that 1 in 5 people will suffer from this illness at some point in their lives. The other 4 out of 5 people will have a friend, family member or loved one who will struggle with mental health. This disease effects everyone.
- MENTAL ILLNESS MAKES PEOPLE DANGEROUS … research shows that people with a mental illness are less likely to be violent but instead are more likely to be a VICTIM of violence. It is the misunderstanding of others that has created this label of being “dangerous” we are assigned.
- MENTAL ILLNESS CANNOT BE CURED … with the proper recovery plan, people can and do recover from their illness. No one should feel unwell forever. An aggressive approach to treatment that includes medications, therapies and a strong support system (friends, family, loved ones) is the map to full recovery.
- PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESS ARE WEAK … stress studies show that people with a mental illness actually handle stress better than those who have never had to battle with mental health issues. The skills we learn to use to cope with our illness equip us to handle the stresses of daily life more effectively than most. Taking care of ourselves and asking for help when we need it are signs of strength, not weakness.
- ONLY ADULTS GET DEPRESSED … it is a recognized fact that mental illness often begins early in life. It looks different in children, impacts how a person grows and develops and affects the way a child learns normal coping skills. Often misdiagnosed or overlooked entirely, children do not receive the help they need.
- MENTAL ILLNESS PREVENTS PEOPLE FROM BEING ABLE TO WORK … statistics show that workplaces are filled with people who have experienced this disease. Many people benefit by setting achievable goals at work. It is the systemic barriers that most often prevent people with a mental illness from obtaining or sustaining employment.
- EVERYONE GETS DEPRESSED AS THEY GET OLDER … it is a common misconception that depression is just a part of aging. The fact is, older people usually develop depression because of major life changes such as retirement, empty nesting or changes in social networks. If this happens, these people need the same type of recovery plan as anyone else.
There are many more misconceptions associated with mental illness which result in creating barriers that result in being excluded from our communities. We need to speak out and remove these barriers.
It is time to BREAK THROUGH the invisible glass ceiling !!