May is Mental Health Awareness month, but really we should be talking about its importance year-round. While it is certainly no new concept, its significance and acceptance have only recently come to the forefront of society, and we are still making our way to end the stigmas surrounding it.
But what even is mental health, really? It is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” So basically, you’re not just surviving, you’re really living – got it.
So, why is something so essential to our way of life so stigmatized? Why do we feel comfortable asking for help and/or medical care when we break our arm, but not when we have anxiety? Why is our brain, the most essential organ in our body, treated the least? Wouldn’t it make sense to make our minds our priority before anything else?
That’s what we, as a society, are pushing towards. But we still have a ways to go – I’m here to dish five mental health myths that you probably believe. Let’s get into it!
1. Most people don’t suffer from mental health problems
MYTH! The reason we think that so few people deal with these issues is because no one likes to talk about their own mental health. We have been conditioned to see those who talk about their struggles as “weaker” or that they’re “crazy”. But, don’t many of us suffer from this? Do you know anyone who is sunshine and rainbows every single day? (if you do, they’re faking it). The World Health Organization says, “1 in 4 people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives.” It is much more common than we think, and the more we talk about it, the more normalized it becomes.
2. Therapy is only for those who have serious mental health concerns
False! Even if you think your life is good and dandy, every single person can benefit from therapy. Like, even Oprah! Many people also believe that you shouldn’t see a therapist unless you have a specific issue you want to discuss – also false. Therapy is meant for exploring who you are and your experiences on a deep level to not only uncover things you may be harboring that you may not even be conscious of, but to also understand yourself to a greater extent that only a professional can help you achieve.
On the other hand, therapy is also extremely beneficial for tackling specific issues as well as for those with mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. While stigmatized heavily in the past, Gen-Z specifically is gaining traction in making therapy ~trendy~ – are you even living if you don’t vent to your therapist every week?
3. People with mental health issues can’t maintain successful relationships
If this were true, the entire world population would be single and friendless! Just because someone may have a chemical imbalance, does not make them unsuitable partners or scary to befriend. When it comes down to it, people just want to be supported – and it is especially helpful if this person goes to therapy or even finds a medication that works for them. If you’re dating, friends with, or related to someone who struggles with mental health, let them know you’re there for them – this alone, makes the world of a difference. Additionally, help them seek out resources that can ease their pain as well!
4. Taking medication is embarrassing
Back to the broken arm analogy – would anyone call you crazy for wearing a cast? Hell, no! So, why is medicine for the brain any different? What many people don’t realize is that our bodies’ chemistry is imbalanced. This is not our fault! That’s why we have medicine, to help balance us back out. Why would we be embarrassed fixing our problems? While medicine is not for everyone, let’s start encouraging each other to look into our options so we can mend our wounds instead of avoiding them.
5. People cause their own mental illness
While many think that people are the culprit of their own mental illness, this is far from the truth. You are not to blame! However, those who suffer from this should take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts, patterns, and behaviors and are encouraged to seek help and treatment as needed. This is an important distinction to make, as we as a society should not place blame and/or shame on those who suffer from mental illness, however we should also not enable those who are severely suffering to continue without professional help.
While there are so many different types of mental illness and myths that go along with them, these are five that are extremely common to believe. The more we talk about the hard topics, the closer we become to acceptance and appreciation of both ourselves and others.