May is Mental Health Awareness Month. To raise awareness, information is provided to dispel common myths about mental health.
There are differences between mental health, mental illness and severe mental illness. Mental health is how we manage and cope with stress and other issues affecting our mental health. Poor mental health can develop into a mental illness such as depression and anxiety disorders. Severe mental illnesses included psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
Myth 1: Mental health issues can’t affect me.
According to research by National Institutes of Health, 50% of adults will have a diagnosable mental health condition. Having loved ones with mental health issues could also affect the family. If physical issues can affect you, so can mental health issues.
Myth 2: People with mental health conditions are violent.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that only 3-5% of violent acts are committed by individuals with serious mental illness. There are many who are suffering from poor mental health but can maintain social and occupational functioning.
Myth 3: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental health conditions, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.
Having poor mental health is the same as a person having a cold or arthritis flare up, which doesn’t mean a person cannot function at work. It means they’re not feeling their best.
Myth 4: Mental health issues are a result of personality weakness or character flaws, and people can “snap out of it” if they try hard enough.
As mentioned earlier, mental health is the same as working through a medical condition. One would not tell someone with arthritis, “If you try hard enough, your arthritis will disappear.” Life is difficult at times, and similar to physical pain, it’s normal to react with different emotions when it becomes really intense or lasts for a long time.
Myth 5: It is impossible to prevent a mental health condition.
Being proactive about your mental health is a useful strategy just like being proactive about your physical health. Having healthy coping strategies can help prevent or reduce mental health problems. However, it does not necessarily mean that one will never experience a mental illness.
Myth 6: I can’t do anything for a person with a mental health issue.
People can be supportive of people with mental health issues and show compassion and empathy.
Myth 7: People with mental health issues can’t lead productive, fulfilling lives.
Many well-known successful individuals, such as former presidents Lincoln and Churchill, suffered from depression and were able to live fulfilling, productive lives.
Myth 8: Reaching out for help with coping with emotional and psychological problems is a sign of weakness.
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable in counseling is the opposite of being weak. There is strength in this. Getting help and support encourages healthier living and mental health functioning.
Myth 9: Children are resilient and don’t have the same risks for problems with their mental health as adults.
Children are resilient; however, children have different levels of risks that adults do not experience which puts them at risk for mental health issues. Problems beginning in childhood can increase the risk of mental health problems as an adult, especially if not adequately treated or supported.
Myth 10: Service members and veterans are more likely to have mental health issues than other people.
Military members and veterans are more exposed to situations that could affect mental health, such as difficult deployments, prolonged separation from family and support systems, and the inherent physical and mental challenges of the job. Service members and veterans experience no more mental health issues than any other person exposed to significantly stressful conditions.