#mentalhealthmonday – misconceptions

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!

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26 thoughts on “#mentalhealthmonday – misconceptions

  1. charlsummers says:

    My doctors said the same to me. Apparently because of my weight, it meant it affected my emotions. To a degree it did, but I was to young to actually be depressed or even sad. Because what did I have to worry about?

    One day hopefully this stigma ends. Really good post and very informative, well done!

    Like

  2. Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

    Brilliant post! I especially love the points you brought up about therapy. I’ve been struggling with that on and off for years. It’s not easy, but it definitely shouldn’t be shamed either. One of the misconceptions that frustrate me the most is that mental illness is something you can just “get over” instantly or that “smiling more and going outside” is some kind of magic cure. It’s annoying too when people presume we’re being negative on purpose ect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • whatthelog says:

      Thank you! These were the points I was most nervous about because I know what an individual process therapy can be.
      OH GOD YES. And I’ve also found that when I do try and put a brave face on, people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m depressed! It is impossible to win!!

      Like

      • Lauren @ Wonderless Reviews says:

        You handled it brilliantly. I think it’s definitely about finding the right fit. I think some people feel like it has to work straight off the bat. It’s definitely one of the more complicated areas. Ahh, yes. That’s really frustrating. It’s like some people think that MI means you can only experience one emotion and whilst that might be the case for some people, it doesn’t mean it’s like that for everyone. Medication shaming is another big one that gets to me too! It’s kinda sad just how many misconceptions there are, but hopefully the more we talk about them and dispel them the more educated people will become.

        Like

  3. Huntress of Diverse Books says:

    I hope that more people read your post here – it’s very well written and crucial.

    When I was younger, I believed that people with certain types of mental illnesses were dangerous and violent. I hardly ever saw any positive representation. People with certain types of mental illnesses are portrayed as violent and dangerous in so many (horror) films and books. I’ve been doing a lot of unlearning.

    What annoys me a lot is when people say that people who go to therapy do it to receive free money and that they are lazy.

    Like

  4. Dina says:

    What a wonderful post, Wendy! It encourages me, as a mentally ill person, to see blog entries like this one. So, thank you for writing this one. I particularly enjoyed with your discussion of therapy. It IS incredibly challenging and it depends on many factors. You can have a bad combination between the therapist and the patient.

    Oh, I know what you mean about the assumptions some doctors make. What is up with the weight thing? Very weird.

    Great job! Love this discussion a lot.

    Like

    • whatthelog says:

      Thank you 🙂 I am so glad – I’ve been a bit worried that this series is too focused on explaining things to people who don’t have mental illnesses. I’m so happy that I’m speaking to people who do, as well.
      The weight thing is such a gendered experience as well, I’ve found. Just another example of the sexism and fatphobia found in medicine, I suppose. However, it does seem to be getting a little better. My boyfriend is a med student and he’s had millions of lectures about mental health and working with the patient, rather than lecturing a patient. It is making me hopeful for the future 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • whatthelog says:

      OH GOD YES. I’ve had a couple of therapists not believe me because I was wearing makeup and seemed like a healthy weight. (Actually the beginnings of an eating disorder, but for some reason my worries were deemed ‘irrelevant’.) I’m so sorry that happened to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wendy Chen says:

    Love this post! Ugh, the whole mental illness = weak character idea is so prevalent and messed up. I should be addressing some of this in a future ownvoices WIP that also touches on the interplay with cultural factors… we’ll see, but you definitely articulated everything so well and gave me more to think about. 😄

    Like

    • whatthelog says:

      Thank you!
      Oooh, that sounds fantastic! I didn’t know you were a writer! 🙂 I have to say, since I really got into blogging, I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at writing again. There are so many stories that are worth telling.

      Like

      • Wendy Chen says:

        Thank you, and yes I do write! There’s some more stuff on my writing portfolio page if you’d like to take a look 🙂 Mainly working on historical and contemporary YA at the moment. And YES, you should!

        Like

  6. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Thank you. Thank you for calling all out the shenanigans people come to believe about mental illness. Also, for point out some things I didn’t even realize I was assuming (bad Jackie)! For example, I never once had a positive experience with therapy. I just assumed it didn’t work (or I was broken and incapable of being cured). But really, I think it was more of that dating idea. I was certainly with the wrong therapist.

    Perhaps it’s time to try again?

    Great post, Wendy. Please please please keep writing about this!

    Like

  7. Grab the Lapels says:

    I’m not sure if it helps other people, but for me, knowing what I wanted out of therapy helped me. Not detailed, just simple: I want tools I can use on my own. That was all I knew, but it was helpful. The idea of going in every week “just to talk” made me paranoid as hell.

    Like

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