4 common myths about mental health

Mental health is an important aspect of overall psychological well-being. Additionally, mental health is more than an absence of mental disorders—it is an integral part of health, determined by a range of socioeconomic, biological, and environmental factors. It is the ability to cope with normal stresses of life, maintain a positive outlook, manage one’s emotions, and have fulfilling relationships. Good mental health enables individuals to reach self-actualization, acquire their potential, and make contributions to their communities.

Considering that a thorough approach to mental health includes both prevention and treatment, holistic viewpoints should understand the complex interplay of components included in emotional, physical, and social well-being. There are numerous misconceptions about mental health, though. People seeking support may be seriously harmed by these falsehoods. Even though numerous mental health programs specifically targeted the frequent obstacles to seeking help, these misunderstandings still exist. Here are some widespread myths about mental health.

Myth #1: Mental health conditions are signs of weakness

This could not be further from the truth. Literally, everyone can be affected by mental health issues. This myth can be extremely harmful. It is rooted in long-held societal attitudes and stereotypes about mental health. Historically, mental health conditions were commonly thought to be caused by moral and intellectual deficiencies. Further, it led to the belief that mental health conditions were a result of personal weakness or character flaw.

As time went on, society began to comprehend mental health issues and the biological, psychological, and environmental/socio-economic aspects that contributed to them. Psychotherapists tackle the same question of how trauma and life experiences contributed to the development of mental health disorders in various ways, while concurrently providing evidence-based treatments that can lessen their clients’ suffering. Here, psychoeducation is very significant. Psychotherapists can help reduce feelings of isolation, shame, and despair by helping clients normalize their experiences. They can also help clients develop self-compassion by addressing self-doubt and invalidation by validating their internal experiences. By understanding the causes of their suffering, people may develop the psychological resilience needed to deal with their problems.

But the most important thing is maybe the simple truth that mental health conditions are not a personal choice—they are not and cannot be a sign of weakness. Moreover, they are signs of personal strength and psychological resilience, having in mind the fact that people who struggle with mental disorders must deal with all the problems that others deal with—in addition to their own mental health issues. Their burden is heavy. It signals to the wider community that they need assistance and support, not condemnation.

Myth #2: Mental health conditions are rare

According to the World Health Organization, “a mental disorder is characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation, or behavior.” One in every 8 people in the world lives with a mental disorder. In fact, it is very common to experience some mental health conditions during your life span, often associated with impairment in functioning and significant distress.

It is difficult to pinpoint the myth’s genesis. People who suffer do not seek assistance or share their experiences because of this idea, which may have been influenced by a number of circumstances. Stigma, including self-stigma, is undoubtedly one of the key contributors. It’s possible that someone won’t speak up about their troubles out of fear of being shunned by society. Self-stigma, which refers to unfavorable attitudes and ideas that people with mental health issues may have about themselves as a result of social views about their condition, may be terrifying. It is internalized stigma. Guilt, shame, and embarrassing emotions are commonly encountered.

Self-stigma not only affects how they perceive themselves, hurting their self-esteem and self-efficacy, but it also affects their willingness to seek treatment and their capability to do so.

Myth #3: Mental health treatment is not effective

Various modalities of mental health treatment, such as therapy and medication, can help improve quality of life. But this myth is particularly detrimental to the motivation of a person with mental health disorder to find a therapist and seek professional help. If someone believes that the treatment is not effective, this belief may further enhance feelings of shame, despair, and helplessness. Again, as this belief strengthens, the barriers to seeking help will become stronger too. An individual will not want to engage in finding the right support and most likely will be discouraged to do anything beneficial for her mental health.

This line of thinking can lead down to a slippery slope, a very dangerous path, where the person is starting to believe that s/he is beyond any help. Together with previously described stigma, sometimes embodied in many different forms (e.g. misunderstanding and discrimination), these cognitive-behavioral patterns lead to a new identity, an identity almost solely founded on self-stigma and self-loathing (followed by behaviors such as isolation, negative self-talk, self-destructive behaviors).

It is of essential importance to keep in mind that today we have a large body of evidence that all sorts of mental health interventions DO help. Sometimes psychotherapy is coupled with pharmacotherapy, and sometimes it stands alone. Sometimes the interventions are supplemented with mindfulness-based interventions and practices (e.g. yoga), psychosocial interventions, lifestyle modifications, etc. Whatever is the right combination for you, don’t give up—seeking professional help and talking openly about your problems is a giant step into a brighter future.

Myth #4: Mental health conditions are permanent

A person’s quality of life can be considerably improved by overcoming mental health disorders or finding better ways to manage them. This myth is particularly reinforced by self-stigma since the individual not only believes they are helpless and without hope right now, but also believes they will always be like this. A new identity is developing, one in which the subject regularly has the perception of low self-worth. Because the person’s self-hatred-based behavioral habits will be reinforced as they get even more entrenched, a dangerous self-perpetuating cycle is also created.

A long time ago, mental health conditions were thought to be caused by supernatural forces, such as the possession of evil spirits. This led to the belief that mental health disorders are incurable and that those who suffered from them were doomed to a life of eternal struggle and pain. As science has progressed and developed new research methods, it has become clear that mental health conditions are not permanent, and that recovery is possible. Studies conducted over an extended period on people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder have revealed that with the right combination of care and support, a substantial proportion of patients can experience significant symptom relief and lead to fulfilling lives.

Therefore, with the assistance of mental health professionals, people can learn to reduce/eliminate the symptoms of mental health conditions or learn to live with their issues having little to no influence. Then, their behavior is directed to value-oriented actions, instead of self-fulfilling prophecies of doom and gloom. A more optimistic outlook on life starts to evolve; and along with that, a new identity is born, an identity with more positive self-evaluations, rooted in recognition of the person’s authentic needs.

In conclusion, numerous myths have persisted throughout the history of mental health issues. One of the most widespread misconceptions is that mental health issues are untreatable and irreversible. But this is not the case. Research has demonstrated that it is possible to recover from mental disorders. It’s critical to keep in mind that because mental health issues are usually very complex, each patient will require a highly tailored course of treatment. Destigmatizing mental health issues, encouraging help-seeking, and disseminating a message of hope and healing are crucial.