Over the years, I've had to deal with a worrying amount of misconceptions and misunderstanding regarding my mental health; it seems people have a generalised idea about mental illness which results in stigma and negative stereotyping. I've chosen to address some myths that I've had to defend over the years...
1. Myth: "People with mental illness aren't allowed to work."
Reality: For many people with mental illness, working can be quite difficult, but it certainly isn't impossible. 1 in 5 adults in the UK will have experience of mental illness at any given point in their life, so you probably work with someone who has or had a mental illness.
2. Myth: "People with mental illness are more likely to be violent."
Reality: People with a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than the rest of the population. Unfortunately, public perception of mental health is often stigmatised with violence but statistics show that only 3-5% of violent acts in the UK are committed by people with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with mental illness are 10 times likely to be victims of violent crime and abuse than the rest of society.
3. Myth: "Mental illness is a character flaw"
Reality: Like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, mental illnesses are usually biologically-based disorders and may be a result of genetically, biological, environmental or social factors. Mental illness is not caused by a personal weakness and is a flaw in chemistry, not character.
4. Myth: "People with mental illness can never fully recover"
Reality: For some, mental illness can be a lifelong struggle, and for others, given the right resources and support, may have a mental illness that doesn't re-occur. Many mental illnesses can also be episodic, for example, depression but people with mental illnesses' can definitely go on to live fulfilling and productive lives.
5. Myth: "People with mental illness rely on medication"
Reality: Mental illness is unlike a physical illness in that it cannot always be treated successfully with a single course of a medication. As stated above, people can live "normal" lives with the right support. Medication can be used on a short-term basis, especially for depression and anxiety, but for other mental illnesses, medication can be used long-term.
Raising awareness is something that has significantly improved over the years but unfortunately, stigma still exists. Mental illness is not shameful, but stigma is; stigma is driven by fear and lack of knowledge and the solution to ending this cycle is education. Education ends the cycle of stigma attached to mental illness and is crucial to becoming a society that cares for people with mental illness with the same compassion and support deserved. I hope to live in a world where the brain gets the same amount of sympathy for being sick as much as every other part of the body. Until then, I'll continue voicing my views and experiences to shine a positive light on mental health.