Making positive life choices is highly dependent on the state of our mental health. Mental health includes our overall psychological and emotional wellbeing. It is responsible for how we think, feel, act, and react. A plausible amount of people experience mental health problems at different phases of life, so it’s not an uncommon happenstance but it’s also relieving to know that help is available.
Some key factors that contribute to temporary or chronic mental health issues include:
- Family history of mental illness
Any of these factors could affect the mood and behavior of anyone suffering from mental illness. Especially in countries across Africa where mental health awareness is still low, the stigma surrounding mental illness seems to kill patients faster than the illness itself.
Mental health issues are not a dead-end, people recover and they go ahead to lead healthy lives. We need to be aware of and debunk unnecessary myths about mental health issues, so more people can be comfortable seeking help.
Here are 6 mental health misconceptions we should all destroy…
1. The mentally ill are violent and should be feared
It is rather convenient to believe that someone suffering from a mental illness should be considered violent but studies have shown that barely 7.5% of overall crimes are linked to mental illness. On the contrary, they’re most likely to be victims than perpetrators of crimes. In cases where a person suffering from mental illness becomes violent, it has been found that most times these actions were done in self-defense. This goes to show it’s just a stigma that comes from a misplaced fear of people living with mental illnesses. Bottom line: Treat the mentally ill like you’d want to be treated.
2. You can just snap out of it
“You can snap out of it, if you really want to,” “Get over it already, it’s taking too long,” “Try and put yourself together.” If you have ever said this to someone suffering from a mental illness, just maybe you made them feel much worse than better. That might have been the reason you could never seem to reach them because these statements are void of empathy. People who suffer from mental health issues can not just stop being sad or choose to become happier all of a sudden. Mental health issues are not cured by personal strength and willpower. It is not a character flaw or a choice but an illness that needs to be treated. It should be perceived with as much empathy as physical sickness.
3. People who consider suicide are selfish and cowards
This has to be one of the most insensitive misconceptions about people suffering from mental health issues. They are not just “thinking of themselves” but have reached a level of helplessness that dying seems like the only way to end their suffering. They are not merely seeking attention or crying out for help any longer but rather are experiencing a serious mental breakdown caused by either mental illness or traumatic life situations.
We agree with C. Joybell C, who says; “Open your mind to the world and the many different ways that can be found in it, before making hasty judgments of others. After all, the very same thing that you judge from where you are— may very well be something totally different in meaning on the other side of the world. The problem with making hasty judgments is that it will emphasize your ignorance at the end of the day.”
4. You can’t recover from a mental health illness
Many believe that once mentally ill, always mentally ill, but countless people have actually fully recovered from mental health issues. There are lots of treatments and therapies available to help people with mental health issues but the first step is reaching out for help. Although the more serious the mental health issue, the more deliberate about recovery you need to be.
It will most likely require a lifestyle change and conscious efforts to take charge of certain areas of your life that could trigger a relapse. Life might never go back to exactly the way things were before the illness but insanity is doing the same thing all over again and expecting a different result. Reassuringly, making positive lifestyle changes are always advised even for people who are not struggling with their mental health. Life goes on, flow with the tide.
5. Therapy is a waste of time
A lot of people have been seen as sissies because they started to see a therapist. It’s seen as a sign of weakness because you should “man up” and take your issues by the horns instead of whining about it to your fellow human. On the contrary, it takes a lot of strength for a person suffering from mental health issues to reach out and opt for therapy, this should be encouraged instead of being frowned at by society.
Research has shown that therapy has played a vital role in treating mental illness and 70-90% of patients reported improvement when they started merging therapy with their medications. Most people fear to undress for circumcision because it brings up painful memories that have been locked away and they fear the effects of these carefully tucked in and buried memories on them. The best part of therapy is that it provides solutions for these long term issues and this ultimately brings closure and healing starts to occur.
According to Fred Rogers; “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”
6. Only certain people have mental health
Unbelievably, we relegate mental health issues to a certain type of people. Some say it happens to the poor or just people who had a rough childhood.
News flash! Our mental health can fluctuate at different times of our lives, just like our physical health and it is no respecter of social status or age.
Signs that you or a loved one may be experiencing a mental illness
Note: These are just a few pointers and don’t include all the symptoms of mental illnesses because different individuals exhibit varying symptoms of mental illness but these will help more than sparingly to detect mental health issues in you or a loved one.
- Paranoia or hallucinations (such as hearing voices).
- Isolating yourself from friends or normal activities.
- Unable to cope with stress, your feelings or things that should seem easy to handle.
- Irrational fear, outbursts of anger, extreme sadness, feeling unworthy, unexplained hostility and violence.
- Nursing thoughts of self-harm or hurting others.
- Drug abuse and alcohol dependence.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, please reach out to a mental health profession, speak with a family member or close friend, and get the help you deserve.
“Take your time healing, as long as you want. Nobody else knows what you’ve been through. How could they know how long it will take to heal you.” -A. Bertoli
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