While the discussion around mental health has improved in recent years, there is still a lot of work to be done. Misconceptions, often based on misinformation, are one of the biggest problems contributing to the uphill battle in the fight to normalize discussions about mental health. Here are four common misconceptions about mental illness and why they aren’t true:
Misconception #1: Mental illnesses aren’t real.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘it’s all in your head’ associated with mental illness? This misconception is one of the most harmful because it implies that the symptoms surrounding mental illnesses are not valid, which makes those who are living with one feel like they don’t matter. The same way medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer are real, anxiety and depression are real and should be treated with the same level of importance and respect.
Misconception #2: Youth can’t experience mental illness.
Sadly, children and young adults are just as susceptible to mental health conditions as adults. In fact, 1 in 5 children aged 13 to 18 has, or will have, a mental illness, and 50% of all lifetime cases begin by age 14.* It’s important that we start mental health discussions early on to introduce symptoms, warning signs, and resources. Growing up comes with its ups and downs and it’s important that we teach children how to recognize when something is more serious.
Misconception #3: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
The same way physical illness is often times out of your control and based on environmental and biological factors, so is mental illness. While traumatic events and certain situations can make someone more prone to developing a mental condition, this does not make them weak—it makes them human. We need to be understanding and assure them that they are not weak, especially if they want to seek out treatment options.
Misconception #4: People living with a mental illness will never get better.
Now more than ever, there’s an abundance of resources and treatment options available for those who live with a mental health condition and want to improve their quality of life. Everyone’s journey is different, so what works for one person may not work for someone else. However, it’s important to be supportive because the recovery/healing process may not be linear, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.
If you’re interested in learning more about common misconceptions and how they’re being debunked every day, check out these resources:
*Information provided by The National Alliance on Mental Illness