Can we stop with the myths around mental health?????
"Compassion will make you feel beautiful."
Beautiful People! Let's Go!!
One thing that we can collectively agree on, is this pandemic, past political climate, societal social anxiety, and unrest has influenced our mental health in ways that I believe will take years to deconstruct; yet there continues to be either myths or stereotypical attitudes as to what mental health/illness is or not.
Let's start off with a simple question, when you think about mental health, what comes to mind? Maybe you think about mental health as it relates to illness such as depression; or being stressed, having to go to the hospital, or facing issues such as suicide, knowing someone who you think may be mentally ill, or believing what the media put out when it comes to the topic of mental illness. Whatever the case may be, all of us have an idea, opinion, or an up-close and personal experience. Here are at least 4 stereotypes I need to DEBUNK.....
Fact or Fiction
Fiction: Mental health problems are uncommon.
Fact: Believe it or not, talking about mental health is still rare, some may think that mental health problems are too — however this is far from true. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) currently estimates 450 million people worldwide are experiencing a mental or neurological disorder. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year; 1 in 5 (this is not including any current research or data during the pandemic-I can only imagine how staggering the stats are or will be).
One of the most common mental health disorders is depression, which affected more than 264 million people globally in 2017. More recently, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a US-based study concluded, the number of adults experiencing depression has tripled.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is prevalent too: 6.8 million adults in the U.S. are currently living with GAD — that’s more than 3% of the population... These statistics really illustrate how common mental health challenges are and that they can affect anyone. Just by the numbers alone, you more than likely may know someone who is living with a mental health disorder.
Fiction: Those living with a mental health disorder or challenge are unable to work.
Fact: A person living with a mental health disorder can still work and be productive (my son is proof of that). They may need to take time off or work with certain accommodations, but they can be just as productive as those without a mental health disorder. One study found that 54.5% of individuals with a severe mental health condition were employed, compared to 75.9% of people without a mental illness. In young adults (ages 18-25), there was just a 1% difference in employment rates between those with and without a serious mental illness. Not only is this fact to think otherwise would be an insult to those dealing with mental illness while at the same time fighting the day to day grind to be productive individuals in the workplace or school setting.
Fiction: Mental health challenges are a sign of weakness.
Fact: This statement is such bullshit; no more true than saying crying is a sign of weakness. We don’t call someone “weak” if they break their arm or catch a cold, and a mental health diagnosis is no different. Factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood to develop a mental health disorder include genetics, stress, the standard of living, working conditions, and social support. To regard anyone struggling with mental as weak is an insult beyond comprehension.
Fiction: Addiction stems from a lack of willpower.
Fact: Addiction is a chronic disease, no one "chooses" to be an addict, nor is it something that you can turn on and off (this is coming from a woman who was in a relationship with an addict who struggled with mental illness). Much like heart disease, arthritis, and osteoporosis, and there are many determining factors similar to the ones listed above, with genetics playing a large role. Mental health disorders and addiction often happen at the same time (comorbidity). Comorbid substance use disorder and mental illnesses are common, with about half of people who are experiencing one or the other condition or both. Those struggling with addiction face a tough challenge, and it takes a lot of strength to get help and stay healthy.
We continue to conduct research and learn more about mental health, and the fields of psychology and psychiatry are still relatively new. As we continue to learn more, we can benefit further by having these conversations with our loved ones, sharing our lived experiences, and learning from each other.