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by Nina Westbrook


Mind

Mental Health Myths


There’s a lot of confusion around mental illness. Today, we’re addressing 6 myths about mental illness.

by Nina Westbrook


Mental Health Myths

by Nina Westbrook


As a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ll be the first to tell you that there’s often a lot of confusion around mental illness. In fact, many people struggle to understand what mental illness is and what it isn’t which can lead to a stigma surrounding mental health as a whole. More than half of people with mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders which is a troubling statistic. Particularly when we realize that some people living with mental illness may not ask for help because they fear what could happen once they do. They might question whether their family will judge them, whether they will be able to keep their job, or whether their friends and colleagues will worry that they are dangerous.

The stigma around mental illness is real and it generally stems from a lack of understanding and the fact that there are so many myths surrounding the topic. Over the years, quite a bit has changed about the way we approach mental wellness but some people (and entire communities) still struggle with what mental illness means and whether it should be addressed or ignored altogether.

Today we’re addressing 6 of the myths that surround mental health with the hope that by educating ourselves and those around us, we can help a loved one struggling with mental illness find the support they need. For anyone actively looking for support, please visit my resources page for organizations uniquely specialized to help you on your lifelong journey towards mental wellness.

1. Mental Health Isn’t Black or White: Our mental health flows on a continuum and many of us have no problem admitting that we have days when we feel better and some when we don’t. These shifts are natural and indicate that assessing someone’s mental health is not as easy as saying you’re either A or you’re B - there’s a lot of space in between. If you or a loved one experiences trouble with these shifts along the continuum, it’s best to call on a mental health professional who can work through what you’re feeling and offer expert techniques to support you through it.

2. Mental Health Issues Are Not Uncommon: When someone says the words ‘mental illness,’ people often jump straight to thinking the extreme, but mental health issues are common and they don’t always look the way one might expect. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 U.S. adults lives with mental illness which means it’s very likely that you or someone you know may be struggling with their mental health.

3. Mental Illness Is Not a Sign of Weakness: Mental illnesses range from mild to severe but the severity of the illness doesn’t define the human being living with it. Some cultures or communities believe that admitting you need mental support is a sign of weakness or that mental illness is a character flaw. They believe everyone should be able to work through their issues without therapy or medication. When we perpetuate those beliefs, we are shaming a person who may be struggling and that shame can be the reason they delay seeking help. Owning your story and taking control of your mental health is one of the strongest things you can do.

4. The Journey to Mental Wellness is NOT Linear: Even if you’re seeking therapy or feeling great about your mental health journey, life happens and you will always be tested. There will be good days and bad ones but the key is to keep growing. As we grow and care for our mental health, we gather the emotional tools and resources we need to properly cope with everything that comes our way.

5. Mental Health is Part of Our Everyday Lives: Mental health is not exclusive to the individuals who recognize their own mental health journey. We have all been impacted by mental health issues in one way or another. We may have experienced them personally but didn’t recognize it at the time or maybe we have a loved one who struggles with mental health related issues. Mental illness can take many forms including addiction, continually participating in toxic relationships, isolation, constantly feeling unfulfilled, engaging in negative familial cycles, and more…does any of this sound familiar?

6. Awareness Alone is Not Enough: Although being mentally aware and supporting the mental health of your loved ones is fantastic, the journey must continue. You can be an advocate for those who are living with mental illness by sharing your own story, encouraging others to seek the support they need, being vocal about mental health legislation, or openly practicing everything you continue to learn along your journey.

Have questions about mental health or another mental illness myth you’d like to share? Drop them in the comments below.