COMMON MYTHS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Many myths are deep-rooted, stigmatising and result in isolating the person from his or her family, peer group, co-workers and community. Some of the common myths that hinder timely care-seeking and have a damaging impact on the affected person’s self-esteem are listed below:
Click on any mental health problem below to know more:
Psychiatric disorders are not true medical illnesses like heart disease and diabetes
Brain disorders, like heart disease and diabetes, are legitimate medical illnesses. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for psychiatric disorders, and they can be treated effectively.
Mental illnesses are incurable and lifelong
When treated appropriately and early there are chances that the affected person may recover fully and have no further episodes of illness. For others, mental illness may recur throughout their lives and require ongoing treatment. This is the same as many physical illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Like these other long-term health conditions, mental illness can be managed so that individuals live life to the fullest. Although some people become disabled as a result of ongoing mental illness many who experience even very major episodes of illness, live full and productive lives.
Mental illness is no longer stigmatised in society
Mental illness in most societies throughout the world is still badly stigmatized and looked down upon. In some societies, even admitting to a possible mental health concern can make you ostracised from your family, co-workers and the rest of society. There has been significant research in the past two decades but increased understanding and acceptance of mental illness is needed. While still not as accepted as having a common medical condition like diabetes, most people view common mental illnesses such as depression or ADHD as just another of those concerns of modern life.
People are born with mental illness
Most experts agree that a genetic susceptibility, combined with other risk factors, leads to a psychiatric disorder. A vulnerability to some mental illnesses such as bipolar mood disorder, can run in families. But other people develop mental illness with no family history. Many factors contribute to the onset of a mental illness. These include stress, bereavement, relationship breakdown, physical and sexual abuse, unemployment, social isolation and major physical illness or disability.
People with mental illness are dangerous
People with a mental illness are seldom dangerous. Even people with the most severe mental illness are rarely dangerous when receiving appropriate treatment and support. Statistics show that the incidence of violence in people who have a brain disorder is not much higher than it is in the general population. Those suffering from a psychosis such as schizophrenia are more often frightened, confused and despairing than violent.
Depression results from a personality weakness or character flaw and people who are depressed
could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough
Depression has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function and medication and/or psychotherapy often helps people to recover.
People with mental illness should be isolated from the community
Most people with a mental illness recover quickly and do not even need hospital care. Others have short admissions to hospital for treatment.Improvements in treatment over recent decades mean that most people live in their communities and there is no need for the confinement and isolation that was commonly used in the past. A very small number of people with mental illness need hospital care, sometimes against their will. Improvements in treatment are making this less and less common and fewer than one in a 1000 people are treated this way.
Depression and other illnesses such as anxiety, do not affect children or adolescents. Any problems
they may have are just part of the growing up process
Children and adolescents can develop severe mental illnesses. Left untreated, these problems can get worse. Anyone talking about suicide should be taken seriously.
Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows lack of will power.
Addiction is a disease that generally results from changes in brain chemistry. It has nothing to do with being a good or bad person.
Mental illness is a single, rare disorder
Mental illness is not a single disease but a broad classification for many disorders. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, personality disorders, eating disorders and organic brain disorders can cause misery, tears and missed opportunities for many.
Therapists and mental health doctors don’t care about you, they only pretend to, because you pay them
The psychotherapy relationship is an odd one, not quite replicated anywhere else in society. It is a professional relationship that will be emotionally intimate, a characteristic most people don’t have much experience with. The vast majority of therapists, however don’t get into the psychotherapy profession for the money because it is not the best paying profession. Most get into it because they see it as a calling. “People are in need of help and I am here to offer that,” is the most common response, although it may not seem like that. Fact is that most are in it because they genuinely enjoy helping others work through life’s tough problems.
Doctor/patient confidentiality is absolute and always protected
Just as in a lawyer-client relationship, confidentiality between a doctor and his or her patient or therapist and his or her client is not absolute. While it is a legally protected relationship, there are times when in most states a therapist can be compelled by a court to testify about something said in session or about a client’s background. These exceptions are extremely limited, however, to specific circumstances, usually involving the health or safety of a child.
‘ Breakdowns are opportunities for breakthroughs!’
- Gayathri Ramprasad, undergoing treatment for clinical depression
Knowing the symptoms of mental illness can help you to act in a timely manner and react with compassion
Understanding and acknowledging the problem is the first step to reaching out with love and care
Tear down the walls of stigma and break the silence to show that you care. Find out what you can do to be there…