Two weeks ago I introduced the mythbusters series on mental health. If we are going to continue to break the stigma that surrounds mental health, that means we need to get educated. We need to become aware of the different thoughts, ideas, and beliefs which are commonly held, but hold absolutely no truth to them. So here are more myths. Let’s change the way we view mental health.
Myth: If only people would just choose to think more positively, they would be happier and less depressed.
This is a huge misconception, one that is particularly hurtful and invalidating to hear. Trust me, I’ve heard this quite often, and I STILL get told this. “Just think positive.” Um…okay. I’m positive that I don’t feel better. HAHA!!! Seriously though, our brains cannot control the universe. We can just think one thing and then it magically happens. Our thoughts are products of a lifetime of environmental, biological, social, and spiritual changes. Think about it this way. Think of a time which you got hurt, had surgery, or something else which was physically painful. If in the middle of your excruciating pain I told you to think positive and not to think about the pain, do you think that you would have magically stopped hurting? That you would be in less pain? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I’m not saying that we should not be intentional in our treatment of mental health, or that thinking positive doesn’t affect mental health. I’m just saying that “think positive” is not the most effective way to treat depression. There’s much more to it than that. Chemically, the brain produces four primary chemicals which influences the affect of happiness in the brain. If the brain cannot physically produce these chemicals, then the treatment would then need to be neurological, not cognitive. So please, stop saying “be more positive” when we are down. Please.
Myth: I have to have a diagnosis to start taking care of and being concerned for my mental health.
If we have a car, do we wait until the car runs out of gas to put more gas in it? Do we wait until the engine seizes up to replace the oil? No, of course not. (Well I would hope not anyway.) If we have something of value, we take care of it. We perform maintenance on our car to keep it in the best possible running condition. Without proper maintenance and upkeep, the car will not perform as effectively as it could. The same goes for ourselves. Without the proper mental health wellness checkups and maintenance such as self-care, we may find that we will not function as effectively as we have the potential to. Regarding a diagnosis, that “label” is just a way for the mental health practitioner to discover the best avenues of treatment. Let’s call it Mental Health Maintenance. It’s necessary. It’s required.
Myth: The only way I can help out with the mental health initiative is if I am a Mental Health Champion.
FALSE! In fact, just because you don’t have the label does not mean you are not capable of making a difference in breaking the stigma of mental health. You do not have to be a leader or an expert in mental health to contribute to the mission of this initiative. I have my own term for it: Mental Health Missionaries. As a mental health missionary, you can empathize with others. You can help create a safe place within your local CR to talk about mental health. You can share your own stories. You can challenge other myths that come up in the battle against stigma. You can become an accountability partner of someone who is struggling. You can utilize the mental health agreement in your own recovery journey. You can reach out and get your own mental health wellness check. One small step at a time, one story at a time, one small action at a time. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE BY JUST BEING YOURSELF.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor