Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
These days, a lot of people have some form of mental health problem, whether formally diagnosed or not. Sadly though, the amount of stigma surrounding mental health is still prevalent. So, what are my top 10 myths about mental health?
1. You can’t have a job
BRRR! Wrong! Many people who have a diagnosed mental health condition still work a full time job. Others may struggle a bit more and have a temporary, part-time or voluntary role. Regardless, a mental health condition doesn’t normally stop a person from gaining employment and shouldn’t under employment law. By utilising support and their employer’s HR, a person may find themselves with more support than they had before.
2. You can’t have a healthy relationship
Again, also untrue. A healthy relationship doesn’t have to mean a lack of mental illness. The goal of a relationship is to love and support one another honestly. If a person with a mental illness is upfront and honest about their condition, and their partner is open and supportive, there’s no reason this can’t work. A relationship becomes toxic or unhealthy when there is a lack of safety or respect, which doesn’t signify the presence of mental illness.
3. You can’t be a good parent
Actually, you can. If your mental health condition is controlled and you have the right support when you need it, there’s no reason why you can’t be an awesome mum or dad. There is no one-size-fits-all with mental illness, so you would need to decide yourself if you’d be able to cope with the challenges of parenthood but, ultimately, mental illness doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, have children.
4. You’ll never get better
This is another toxic myth. With the right support, a person should be able to recover at least part-way. Yes, some conditions may be long-term or even with us for life, but you can still be you. Likewise, just because someone is struggling or having a bad period it doesn’t mean they will be like that forever.
5. It’s just an excuse
The majority of people with a mental illness hate it. They hate the way they think, act, or behave. There’s a high chance that the person suffering isn’t making excuses for what they’re doing, or even what they’re not doing, but that they’re simply doing their best in that moment.
6. They’re violent or dangerous
Some people with mental illness can be violent or dangerous. Most are not. Some people without a mental illness can be violent or dangerous. Most are not. Mental illness doesn’t dictate whether a person is going to hurt you or not. In fact, someone with a mental health condition is 10 times more likely to be a victim than someone without a condition.
7. You’re lazy
This is a horrible myth that most people with a mental health condition hear at some point. We may struggle to get out of bed, complete tasks, or even shower. That doesn’t mean we are lazy. When we are struggling, it may appear to onlookers that we are lazy, but what people don’t see is the fight going on inside our minds. Think of it like an iceberg. You see only a small portion, but out of eye-view is a huge amount.
8. You’re weak
A person’s physical strength doesn’t denote whether or not they will have a mental illness. It has nothing to do with it. Causes of a mental illness can be due to:
- Childhood trauma
- Genetic predisposition (hereditary)
None of these have anything to do with strength. In fact, the person is mentally stronger than you think for not giving up!
9. It’s not a real illness
Mental illness is real, and it can be very serious. The myth that it isn’t as credible as a physical illness is bad, and can potentially stop a loved one from turning to you in a time of crisis. Just because you can’t see the problem, doesn’t mean it’s not there. You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer, ME, MS or another potentially ‘invisible’ illness that their struggle isn’t real, so please do not use this against someone with a mental illness.
10. I can’t help
Yes! You can! If someone you love is struggling with their mental health there’s a number of ways in which you can help such as:
- Reminding them about appointments or medication
- Reminding them to eat or shower
- Making meals or helping tidy
- Validating their worries and emotions
- Treating them with the same respect
- Helping them to access support and services
Helping doesn’t have to mean fixing the problem or making it go away. It can also mean showing your support and picking up the slack while they try to work on themselves.