The phrase ‘mental health’ brings with it countless assumptions, notions and pre-conceived myths. In a short and simple piece, I am going to dispel a few of the most common, but inaccurate, assumptions.
MYTH – Talking about suicide will make someone commit suicide.
TRUTH – Asking someone if they are suicidal is not going to give someone the idea, in fact by asking them about suicidal thoughts you are giving them the opportunity to talk about any thoughts they may have had and allow them to ask for help.
MYTH – If someone really wanted to, they could snap out of their mental health problem, if they just tried.
TRUTH – In the majority of cases, mental health problems are caused by factors that an individual cannot change or “snap out of” even if they did try. These include chemical imbalances, biological factors, learnt behaviours, coping mechanisms, inherited conditions, brain activity and experiences of trauma.
MYTH – OCD is all about cleaning and having things neat and tidy.
TRUTH – Obsessive compulsive disorder can take many forms and can be extremely debilitating for the individual. In some cases it can put the person at both physical and emotional risk.
MYTH – In order to be depressed you need to have something to be depressed about.
TRUTH – There are numerous types of depression, many of which are caused by hormonal imbalances and have nothing at all to do with a person’s current situation, lifestyle, bank balance, relationship status etc.
MYTH – Individuals with mental health problems are unable to work.
TRUTH – In actual fact, many people with a diagnosed mental illness can hold down jobs, some very high profile and stressful jobs at that.
MYTH – Everyone with a borderline personality disorder was sexually abused as a child.
TRUTH – Although there is a large proportion of individuals with BPD who were sexually assaulted as a child, this is not a requirement for a diagnosis. Likewise, not every victim of child sexual assault will develop border line personality disorder.
MYTH – Schizophrenia means a person has more than one personality.
TRUTH – This is a common misconception, individuals with schizophrenia do not have more than one personality. An individual who is diagnosed as having multiple personalities is diagnosed as having dissociative identity disorder.
MYTH – People with mental health problems are violent.
TRUTH – On the whole, individuals with a mental health illness are no more violent than an individual who does not have a mental health problem.
MYTH – Mental health problems cannot be prevented.
TRUTH – In some cases mental illness can be prevented by addressing risk factors, introducing support early and educating from a young age.
MYTH – Mental health problems are contagious.
TRUTH – Mental health problems are NOT contagious.