Despite making huge advances in the way our society views mental health, mental illness does still carry a stigma. The recent suicide of Robin Williams has paved the way for discussions about depression, addiction and bipolar disorder, but we still have a long way to go before mental illness is as widely accepted and understood as fighting physical illnesses.
No one should ever be ashamed to seek help from behavioral health services available to them. There are many misconceptions surrounding mental illness and psychiatric care. Here are ten common myths:
1. Mental health problems are rare. The fact is, one out of every five Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder within their lifetimes (source: National Institute of Mental Health).
2. You are weak if you can’t handle your own mental health issues. This is simply not true. Much like physical disease needs to be treated with medication, mental illness needs to be treated with behavioral therapy. Seeking help is courageous.
3. Feeling suicidal means you’re “crazy.” Suicidal tendencies stem from depression, anxiety and hopelessness. Feeling suicidal does not make you crazy and those feelings will go away once you receive adequate care.
4. Mental illness is the result of bad parenting. Mental illnesses are complicated conditions and no one factor can cause them. Parents who notice symptoms of mental health issues in their children often seek help from a child psychiatrist right away. They are a support system, not a cause.
5. People don’t recover from mental illnesses. People can and do recover from mental illnesses. There are so many treatment options, services and support groups that even those with an incurable condition can have an excellent quality of life.
6. Your mental health problems are your fault. While it’s true that people need to take responsibility for their thoughts and behaviors, their mental disorders are not their fault. Taking responsibility does not mean accepting blame, nor should it.
7. Being depressed is just part of the aging process. Depression is never an inevitable part of growing older.
8. If you admit you have a problem, everyone will think you’re crazy. Having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. It just means you have a problem that needs treatment, similar to a medical disease. No one would shame you for having cancer, and anyone who would judge you for speaking up about a mental illness doesn’t deserve to be in your life.
9. People with mental illnesses can’t work. A mental illness doesn’t mean someone is no longer capable of working. Many people hold down jobs successfully while getting treatment.
10. Mental health issues can be treated by a primary care physician. While your physician can help you initially with determining that you have a mental problem, diagnosable mental health disorders are best treated by a mental health professional. Just like a physical ailment, a mental illness requires a specialist.