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Ten Common Misconceptions About Mental Health

27/01/2016 17:45 | Updated 29 January 2016

1. Mental health doesn't affect me

Just like we all have physical health, we all have mental health. To many, the terms 'mental health' and 'mental illness' mean the same thing, but just like we can have positive physical well-being, we can also have positive mental well-being.

Mental health is a continuum and our mental health can move between poor and good on a daily basis. Things that can affect our mental health include relationships, financial concerns, work and even what day of the week it is. Just as our mind is unique, so is our mental health and what affects it.

2. People with mental health problems can't work

I recently asked a series of people in senior management roles the following question, 'When I say mental health, what comes to mind?'

The responses were very interesting. Although some said that it was 'the way you think and feel', the majority of respondents said things like, 'illness', 'schizophrenia' and 'care home'.

This misunderstanding of mental health enforces the misconception that people with a mental illness can't work.

In actual fact, people with mental health problems can and do work. With one in six employees predicted to be experiencing problems with stress, anxiety and depression, it is likely that you work with someone with a mental illness.

3. People with mental health problems never recover

Firstly, it is worth noting that recovery isn't always defined by an absence of symptoms. Understanding what causes mental illness and learning how to deal with the effects, can enable an individual to manage a condition on a daily basis.

If someone has a broken leg you can see that they have an injury, and can see when they have their cast removed. Does this mean they have recovered? Many people require physio to continue the healing process, just as some people need a bit of support every now and then to monitor and maintain positive mental health.

People with mental health problems can get better and many can recover completely.

4. Mental health problems are a sign of weakness

There is a huge stigma surrounding mental illness, and part of this is down to the fact that it isn't necessarily something you can see.

This is often why people believe they are to blame for causing their mental illness or that they should be able to control it or "cure" themselves. Admitting to one's self that something isn't right can be difficult, and can cause great upset and distress. For someone to share their feelings and concerns about their mental health, with even just one person, takes extreme courage and strength!

Anyone can experience a mental health problem, it does not make you weak.

5. If you tell people that you have a mental health problem, everyone will turn against you.

Often, people fear that telling others they have a mental illness will change how people treat them. Many think that people will feel awkward around them, that they may lose friends or be isolated. In fact, most people admire those who are able to talk about their mental health and would like to offer their help and support.

In some instances, telling people about mental illness can create an environment in which mental health can be discussed openly without prejudice and thus encourage others who may be suffering to come forward and seek help.

6. Mental health problems only affect adults

Mental illness can affect anyone at any time, and with over 200 classified forms of mental illness, no one is insusceptible. In fact 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 and 75% by age 24.

People often believe puberty is to blame for young people experiencing difficulties such as mood swings, aggression, anxiety and sadness. Although this may be the case for some, puberty can trigger mental illness.

It is essential that we recognise that mental illness is something that can affect all of us, regardless of age.

7. People with mental health problems are violent

According to statistics obtained by Time to Change, the majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have a mental illness. They in fact claim that people dealing with a mental health problem are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others.

8. Mental health problems are a result of bad parenting

A common misconception is that mental health problems are a result of bad parenting. Although we must acknowledge that home environment and parenting can make a problem worse, in the majority of cases, a child will have a condition because of biological causes.

A lot of parents with a child who has a mental illness feel they are to blame and that others are judging and also blaming them, when in fact most want the best for their child, and suffer emotional turmoil, extreme distress, along with guilt, anxiety and countless sleepless nights, whilst fighting for and supporting them.

9. You're alone

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Those finding it difficult dealing with their mental health often feel they are alone and that no one could understand what they are going through. They may feel isolated, embarrassed or ashamed. To them, I say, you are not alone, and you will never be alone.

Family and friends are usually first in line to offer help and support, however, for some, confiding in relatives may be too difficult or even impossible. Nevertheless, there is so much support out there. Your GP can be a great place start. Besides listening and offering their medical opinion, they can refer you to people and organisations that will be able to help.

If you don't feel able to visit your doctor, there are helplines you can call or text including The Samaritans, Mind and Rethink. The main thing to remember is, you are not the first person to experience a mental illness, and you won't be the last! There are loads of us! You are not alone!


10. People with a mental health problem can just 'snap out of it'.

If it was that easy, we would all do it! 'Snap out of it, pull yourself together, get on with it', the list of clichés are endless. Often, people say these when they don't know what to say, or their knowledge of mental health is lacking.

Some people who are uninformed about mental illness can consider symptoms, such as an inability to get out of bed, with laziness, which may explain their attitude and use of phrase.

This is their issue, not yours. Remember, mental illness can affect anyone. Bill Clinton once said, '"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all. "

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