I could probably make 3000 posts about misconceptions about mental health. For something that is so prevalent, there are so many myths about who can have a mental illness, what types of mental illness are socially ‘acceptable’, and what can ‘cure’ you. So, I thought I would dive in headfirst with some of the misconceptions that I have personally experienced, and yeah, sometimes internalised.
- Only hysterical teenage girls have mental illnesses
Because, y’know, other (stronger, unemotional, male) people can ‘suck it up’ and magically stop themselves being depressed, or anxious. This is one of my most hated misconceptions, because it not only trivialises young girls’ experiences, but also implies that mental illness is a weakness in character rather than, y’know, an illness. This also plays into the idea that only women have mental health issues, and all the sexism that’s implied there.
- Young people can’t be mentally ill
On the flip-side, a lot of people also think that mental illness doesn’t really occur in young people. This is, unfortunately, a misconception that I readily believed. My doctors didn’t think that I could be depressed because I was young, so I didn’t either. I was just tired, or had a thyroid problem, or anemic… right?! By the way – many (if not most) mental health problems develop during adolescence. This misconception is an out-right lie.
- Therapy helps everyone
This isn’t necessarily a misconception, but a vast over-simplification. If you’ve never been in therapy, let me tell you – it is hard work. One therapy session is not a cure. It takes a lot of self-analysis, and the willingness to be tough with yourself. I often had to talk about things I’d rather never mention, and came out of therapy feeling worse than when I went in. In my case, I was basically trying to re-wire my brain to understand the world differently. That’s no walk in the park.
- Therapy is a waste of time
This is a misconception that, at one time, I wanted to believe. I’d tried many different types of therapy, and none of them seemed to be working. I was frustrated with myself, and wanted nothing more than to give up. So this is what I told myself. Therapy is such a personal thing – some people will find therapy immediately helpful. Others, like me, won’t. It has a lot to do with what type of therapy you’re trying, the personality of your therapist, your personality…all sorts of things!
This is a tricky subject, though. Some therapists can be a bad fit, if they’re improperly trained or new or just have a different personality to you. I was told by one that I was clearly asexual, not bisexual at all. (Whut.) My advice is – if the therapist is making you uncomfortable, don’t stick with them. Finding a good therapist is a lot like dating, and there is nothing wrong with taking yourself out of therapy if it isn’t working for you at the moment. I just wouldn’t write it off completely.
- Mentally unwell people are violent and dangerous
In the UK at least, there’s been a really big push to talk about mental health and try understand it better. However, I’ve noticed that there’s often a focus on ‘socially acceptable’ mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression. BPD, psychosis and schizophrenia, along with many others, are still often characterised as ‘dangerous’ illnesses. Please stop. There are countless statistics show that this is wrong.
In 2009, the total population in England and Wales was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70 cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community. Source
- It’s just a phase
I always say – even if it is ‘just’ a phase, this is something I am experiencing right now. My experience is not lessened if I am no longer experiencing it a year from now. I still deserve your support.
Are there any misconceptions about mental health that annoy you? Do you have any questions for me? Comment away!