wellbeing with Sally: misconceptions about mental health – dispelling the myths

Hi all, hope you’re enjoying the summer and are getting out a bit more now that the lockdown is easing. It is normal to feel some anxiety as things change and this anxiety can be helpful in that it stops us from dropping our guard too much when we still need to be careful and follow the guidelines. If you're struggling a lot with your mental health, please reach out to a trusted adult, friend or family member, or a support service.

This month I want to cover a few misconceptions about mental health. I think it is important that we lose the stigmas around mental health and take a more helpful perspective:

Myth - People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

TRUTH - The majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental health problems are not violent, only a very small minority of violent acts are attributed to individuals living with a serious illness. And only 1% of victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness (time-to-change.org.uk). In fact, people with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violent crimes.

Myth – People with mental health problems cannot hold down a job.

TRUTH - People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as good levels of motivation. In fact, when people with mental health problems receive effective treatment, employers can benefit from increased productivity and lower absenteeism.

Myth – People with mental health problems have a weakness in their character, they should just snap out of it.

TRUTH - Mental health problems have nothing to do with being weak or lazy. There are many factors that contribute to mental health problems such as: biological factors, life experiences and family history. Many people with mental health problems get better, some make a full recovery.

Myth – I can’t do anything to help a person with a mental health problem.

TRUTH – Family and friends can make a huge difference and can be extremely important in helping get any treatment they may need. To help someone, you can:

  • Reach out, let them know you are available and there to help them.

  • Help them access mental health services.

  • Share facts about mental health.

  • Treat them with respect.

  • Avoid using any words such as ‘crazy’ to describe them or how they are feeling.

Myth – Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illness.

TRUTH – Addressing risk factors, such as trauma, at an early age can improve the chances that may help them to not go on to develop mental health problems in later years. Helping young people with their wellbeing issues can lead to positive outcomes such as:

  • Better educational outcomes

  • Lower crime rates

  • Improved quality of life

  • Increased life span

  • Improved family life

Myth – Children don’t experience mental health problems.

TRUTH – Even very young children display early signs of mental health concerns. Sometimes these problems are diagnosable – often these signs are a product of biological, psychological and social factors.

Half of mental health disorders show signs before the age of 14 and three quarters of mental health problems begin before the age of 24. Many young people do not get the treatment they need, which is unfortunate, as early mental health support can really help wellbeing in later years.

This content is general information only, not advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, please contact a mental health professional or contact the Samaritans.

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