Most of us labor under a number of misconceptions about mental health. In this two-part article, we take on seven of the most common.
In Part I, we provided the real deal on four of the most common mental health myths. Unfortunately, TV, movies, and other media have painted a very negative picture of mental health problems, with their plethora of psychopaths, sociopaths, and violent schizophrenics.
While such people do exist, the vast majority of individuals with mental illnesses aren’t dangerous; nor are they weak-minded, as some people think. Mental health issues are often real diseases with physical causes, which is why they respond well to medical treatment.
Now: let’s look at three more damaging myths about mental health.
Myth #5: The severely mentally ill are violent maniacs.
Hollywood would certainly like you to think so, but statistically, the level of violence observed among schizophrenics and other psychotics is only slightly higher than the general population’s. They’re more likely to act confused, despairing, and scared, often coping with unusual, obsessive behaviors.
Severely depressed people can also be violent, but tend to direct their violence towards themselves.
Myth #6: You can’t control severe mental illness.
Untrue. While the mentally ill can’t just “snap out of it” if they try hard enough, both behavioral and organic mental health issues can be controlled with the proper therapy. Sometimes that therapy is psychiatric, sometimes pharmaceutical; often, it’s both.
Myth #7: Kids don’t suffer from mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Of course they do. Adults seem to think children live completely carefree lives and have nothing to worry about, because they always have someone to take care of them. But children are more perceptive than most people think — and they do pick up problems from their parents.
While children tend to be psychologically resilient, mental trauma can leave lasting scars. And don’t forget that many mental problems have organic causes; all it takes is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain to cause depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues.
About one in 10 Americans under the age of 18 suffers from a mental ailment bad enough to require treatment — and fewer than 20% get the help they need.
Would you think less of a person who came down with lung cancer, contracted pneumonia, or suffered from diabetes, just because they were ill? Hopefully not. You should take mental health issues just as seriously, because they’re just as real — especially to those who suffer their effects.
Mental illness is not a character flaw or behavioral defect. Most mental health issues have organic origins, and we now have some evidence that some are, in fact, caused by microorganisms. Many are treatable. So don’t let the myths about mental health hold you back… or keep you from seeking help if you need it.