Busting 5 Mental Health Myths

As someone who has been actively engaged in the mental health community on social media for the past few years, I have come across an alarming amount of misconceptions about mental health conditions. Many of these myths either minimize conditions (e.g., “Depression is just being sad. Cheer up!”). Others falsely stereotype entire populations (e.g., “People with psychosis are crazy and violent.”). As someone who has a mood disorder myself, many of the misconceptions personally hurt me. I’d like to speak up about common misconceptions I’ve seen because it is time to fight the lies and illuminate the truth.

MYTH 1: You simply aren’t trying hard enough.

Comments with this message have many forms. It may be a comment telling someone to “Just cheer up!” in regards to their severe depression. Many comments oversimplify mental illness. These conditions are not due to a shortage of yoga, kale, green tea, or the latest health trend. You likely wouldn’t tell someone with a physical condition that they should try spin classes or a daily kale smoothie instead of going to their doctor. Why do so many people feel the need to give unsolicited advice to people suffering from mental health issues? It is frustrating to get the message that you could be better on your own, but you simply aren’t trying hard enough. 

MYTH 2: Medications are not the answer.

A lot of people go online to look for answers to their mental health questions. Unfortunately, there are many anti-psychiatry accounts. They will tell people that medications are not the answer. While medications may not be the best approach for some people, for others psychiatry can be life-changing, even life-saving. Some of these accounts call medications toxic. Others say that “natural” remedies, such as certain diets (likely a diet from a book they are trying to sell you) can “reverse” or “cure” your mental illness. I’m not arguing that a healthy diet or lifestyle changes cannot help, but often they are not sufficient for someone facing a debilitating, chronic mental illness. They should be used in conjunction with professional help, not in the place of it.

MYTH 3: Prayer will make your mental health issues go away.

During a hospital stay, I had a roommate who was very religious. I saw how her faith and community helped her through her difficult period of health challenges. Religion can be incredibly helpful. However, there are people who dismiss mental health issues or minimize them by saying that prayer should be used in the place of treatment. A religious community can be a great support system. Support is a significant factor in one’s recovery. Once again, however, prayer should not be used in the place of the help of a mental health provider. 

MYTH 4: Mental health conditions are not that serious.

It is clear based on people’s responses that the general public does not understand the seriousness of many conditions. Someone cannot will themselves out of their illness. That is not how it works. Mental health conditions are labeled as illnesses because of their severity. An anxiety disorder is not the same as the little bit of anxiety you feel before a presentation at work. Depression is not the equivalent of feeling a little gloomy on a dreary day. For example, people with anxiety attacks sometimes go to the ER because they literally think that they are about to die. That is the level of intensity. It isn’t a joke. Mental illness interferes with academics, careers, relationships, families, finances, and physical wellness. For some people, their entire lives revolve around their condition. Comments about being “so OCD” or “so bipolar” only add to this dismissive attitude regarding mental illnesses

MYTH 5: All violent people are mentally ill. Mental illness caused violence.

Unfortunately, there are many mass shootings in the United States. Based on my observations, I have seen a pattern. Often, the perpetrator is instantly labeled as “mentally ill”. Mental illness gets blamed for the violence by the media all of the time. This association between violence and mental illness emphasized over and over again by the news creates a very negative perception of those with mental health conditions. People with mental health conditions are much more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. This type of recurring reporting is inaccurate and harmful.

Fighting the Myths

While they may not be that direct, often the underlying messages are that people with mental health conditions are dangerous, manipulative, unstable, lazy, or unsuccessful. This is not true. I have met an amazing network of inspiring, caring people affected by mental illness. I am tired of the harmful statements, the ones which contribute to both public stigma and self-stigma. Stigma often prevents someone from even seeking mental health treatment. Remember: words have power.

Post republished on The Mighty!

2 thoughts on “Busting 5 Mental Health Myths

  1. Medication is over-prescribed at an alarming rate and there is little evidence they help, but a plethora of evidence that they harm. Many studies that show they help are published by the drug companies themselves or by doctors who receive “honoria” that is $$$ from the pharma industry.
    I have psychosis symptoms. My psychosis was much worse on medication, and I let doctors attempt to drug me on different things for over ten years.
    Medication may help some people. But it harms many more.
    The anti-psychiatry accounts are likely run by mentally ill people who are speaking up against problems in the industry and attempting to advocate for themselves.
    The people who are pro-psychiatry are usually people who do not suffer from psyhosis, people with depression, like it sounds like you have.
    I doubt you’ve seen the side of the mental health field that I have if you do not have psychosis. You’ve probably never been in-patient or had police involved in crisis intervention.
    Lastly, mentally ill people ARE dangerous at times. You aren’t doing anybody any favors by ignoring reality (trust me, I don’t need your help to do that lol). Mentally ill people during a psychotic episode can be quite violent towards others out of fear or they can harm themselves.

    This entire post is very weird, and like most weird ideas about the psych field and mentally ill, it is written by one of the mentally ill with a manageable condition. These kinds of posts are never written by people with psychosis symptoms or by people who can not effectively advocate for themselves.
    I can not tell you how disheartening it is to see, over and over again, the moderately mentally ill who CAN effectively advicate for themselves because they do not struggle with psychosis, shooting down the concerns of the severely mentally ill who can not effectively advocate for themselves.

    There are many problems with conflicts of interest in the psych industry and there is too much influence from the pharamaceutical companies. Some people need drugs, but psych drugs as they are currently administered HURT people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! I am sorry to hear about your own experiences! A lot of this post was to combat the negative stereotypes or the public stigma (e.g., myth: all mentally ill people are violent/unstable). A lot of that is from things like news headlines or social media comments. Clearly, generalizations are faulty. Yes, some people with mental illness can be dangerous just like some people without mental illness can be dangerous. People with mental illness can hurt themselves and others; I am not debating that fact. Also, medications can create issues as well. I personally have experienced incredibly debilitating effects (such as inability to move my eyes) due to meds. I am for psychiatry when it is done with providers who work with patients to address concerns. I have Bipolar I (can feature psychosis). I have been involuntarily hospitalized multiple times, including police encounters. I cannot speak for everyone, but it is weird to assume my diagnosis (depression instead of Bipolar I), experience (that I was probably not involuntarily hospitalized or dealt w/ police), or severity (e.g., lack of psychosis, suicidal ideation). I do not want to shoot down the concerns of the “severely mentally ill”; rather, I want to address common misconceptions by the public. It looks like you certainly have enough content for a blog post of your own on this topic. I’d be happy to read that post if you do end up writing it up.

      Liked by 1 person

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