The mental health initiative is all about working to break the stigma surrounding mental health. What is stigma? Merriam-Webster defines it as “a mark of shame or discredit.” How does this apply to mental health? Well, stigma is a preconceived set of beliefs or ideas which cause an individual or group of people to be perceived in a negative way, devaluing that individual or group. That’s my definition. Preconceived ideas and beliefs can also be known as myths, so that’s what the focus is going to be about: Busting myths of mental health. By no means is this an all-inclusive list of myths. No, no, no. But it’s a start.
Myth: Seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness and failure.
Remember when we were 5 years old and we were trying to tie our shoe or dress ourselves and someone tried to help and we said NO, I DO IT MYSELF!!! Well, I think that most often in our quest for independence, we grow up keeping that same mentality. Instead of asking for help for our issues, we still want to maintain that independence and try to fix it ourselves (I DO IT MYSELF!). Seeking help for a mental health issue is NOT a sign of weakness and failure. In fact, it’s a sign of great strength. There is nothing harder than admitting that we need help with something, regardless of whether it’s needing help opening a jar, fixing a car, or with something else. Why should it be different with mental health? Trying to admit we need help is hard enough without having to fight against the lies that make up our thoughts. We are fighting an invisible battle in our heads every day. To be able to fight those harsh, negative thoughts that tell us we are a failure, that we are weak, that we are not worthy of recovery, my friend, that is great strength and courage. Principle 1: Realize I am not God and that I need help. We cannot heal a wound, or a dysfunctional brain, by ignoring it or pretending it’s not there.
Myth: Those who struggle with mental health are easily spotted in a crowd and just look crazy.
Well now. Think about the last time you were out in a crowd. Did you spot every single individual who was struggling with a mental health issue? Are you sure? No, I don’t think so. In fact, 1 out of every 5 individuals will struggle with a mental health issue at some point during their life. Therefore, in a group of 100, that means an average of 20 of those individuals will struggle or have struggled with a mental health issue. Before I gave my testimony and opened up about my mental health struggles, I hid it rather well. So well that I hid it from myself. After my testimony, people walked up to me and said, “I would have never known…” Therefore, we can’t assume what’s going on with somebody just by looking at them or judging them on their behavior. In CR, we are to give others the freedom and safety to be able to speak about their own mental health issue. We don’t go around diagnosing other people. Leave that to the professionals. Stop judging and start loving.
Myth: You can’t recover from a mental health issue, disorder, or illness.
Mental health is so misunderstood. Mental health is not a disease to cure, it’s a quality of life. Much like physical health, which can range from good to bad, mental health works much in the same way. We can’t just get rid of mental health; everyone has mental health. How our mental health is functioning determines whether it is an issue or not, just like physical issues. With the proper help and resources, we can learn to manage and improve our mental health quality, which in turn improves the quality of life. There will be good days and there will be bad days, and we won’t experience the best mental health at all times, but we don’t have to experience the worst at all times, either. Mental health issues can be debilitating, painful, annoying, and frustrating, but that does not mean we have to suffer with it forever. We have the choice to decide what we are going to do to take the next step toward improving our mental health, whether that be through counseling, medication, self-care, mindfulness and relaxation, or other avenues.
What are some other mental health myths that you recognize?
April N Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor