Myth 1: Mental health issues are uncommon.
Though the stigma around these issues has been greatly lifted in recent years, there is no doubt that it still exists. As we all know, mental illnesses are not abnormal and rare brain mutations. According to the World Health Organisation, it was estimated in 2001 that 1 in 4 people will personally experience mental health problems in their lifetime, and this number has surely risen in recent years. It is for this reason that we should strive to destigmatize this issue even more, accept those living with them and in turn encourage them to seek professional guidance.
Myth 2: People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable.
People with mental illnesses are often labelled as being “bizarre” and it is widely believed that they don't have control over their bodies, giving in to violent impulses and urges. Additionally, they’re also thought to be unpredictable as people may think that certain triggers lead to sudden outbursts. However, this is far from the truth: it’s been proven that only 3-5% of acts of violence correlate to mental illnesses. In reality, those living with mental illnesses are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence due to discrimination, proving this myth to be wrong and that those with mental health issues are often alienalised.
Myth 3: Those with severe mental illnesses aren’t able to work.
It is falsely believed that because of their mental illnesses, people with them would be under too much stress to hold down a job. However, this is completely wrong as people who appear “normal” may be high-functioning but still struggle with mental illnesses. In fact, there may be more people in your workspace who are going through mental health issues than you expect. High-functioning patients are still able to go to school or work and have a raging battle of mental illnesses at the same time, which goes unnoticed to even those close to them. In 2014, a study found that in the US, 68.8% of people with mild mental illnesses are employed, which shows that mental problems do not negatively affect productivity in the workspace.
Myth 4: Addiction and the inability to overcome is just a lack of self-control.
Not only is this statement inaccurate, it also trivialises the physical struggles of those living with addiction. Withdrawal from addiction causes changes in the brain’s chemicals, sending signals that call for the substance, otherwise leading to inability to carry out bodily functions. Some might also believe that the substance they are addicted to helps them be more creative or concentrated, improving their performance and leading to an unwillingness to let go of it. All these show real life struggles that are not problems of self-control, proving the myth to be incorrect.
Myth 5: Eating disorders are a lifestyle choice.
Genetics is a crucial factor of eating disorders. According to the notable anorexia nervosa researcher Dr Cynthia Bulik, those with first-degree relatives who have lived with eating disorders are 11 times more likely to come into contact with the same eating disorder. Additionally, chemical signals also take part in forming an eating disorder. For example, those living with anorexia nervosa may feel anxious when eating, and feel at ease when hungry. This explains their unwillingness to eat, opting to stay hungry instead. Hence, we can see that one does not simply choose to have eating disorders - they are instead forced onto them due to biological reasons.
Myth 6: People living with bipolar disorder are moody.
The term “bipolar” is often carelessly thrown around to describe someone or something that is moody, but this trivialises and misrepresents the actual disorder. The mood swings do not occur in a short period of time, contrary to popular belief. In fact, episodes often last for several weeks or even months. Thus, saying that people with bipolar are moody, or that people who are moody have bipolar disorder, is inaccurate.
Myth 7: People with mental illnesses should just “get over it”.
Though this stigma has already greatly been reduced, many still think that people with mental illnesses should just “get over it”. Mental health issues are not simply caused by minor problems in one’s life, other contributing factors like brain chemistry and genetics also play important parts. These are not in one’s control nor are they simple problems that one can just solve or “get over”.
Myth 8: Bad parenting causes mental illnesses.
As previously mentioned, mental illnesses are usually caused by biological reasons. Though the environment in which a child grows up in and relationships with their parents may catalyse the development of a mental illness, they do not cause it. That being said, a child’s parent figure is crucial during the discovery and recovery stages during their time living with mental illnesses.