Common Mental Health Myths Busted

by rodney on September 24, 2012

There is much stigma, intolerance and discrimination surrounding people living with mental illness these days.  These conditions create challenges for many consumers who find it hard to have access to proper support and treatment, find employment and have adequate resources to live, maintain self-esteem and have a life of meaning and even have their basic human rights up held.

These conditions are perpetrated by many myths about mental illness which the majority of society believes to be facts. I will look at some of the most common myths out there and attempt to expose the false beliefs and destructive attitudes that plague mental health consumers.

People with mental health issues are often violent and dangerous.

The fact is mental health consumers are more likely to be the victims of violence perpetrated by people with no mental health issues at all. Mental illness creates vulnerability for consumers and many consumers are victims to people who take advantage of that vulnerability. Consumers often find themselves victims of not just violence but also financial exploitation, theft and sexual abuse.

This myth is reinforced by the media. New stories often report on “crazy” killers but never on mental health consumers who are doing well. Movies often depict the mentally ill as serial killers and criminals but never as heroes.

People with mental health issues are going to commit suicide.

While mental health issues does increase the risk of suicide for consumers, many suicides are completed by those with no mental health issues at all. Suicide happens when people are out of coping resources and don’t see any other way out. In this respect, I believe that by reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health issues and increasing the support and resources for consumers, we can reduce the risk of suicide.

This myth is also reinforced by the families of people who have completed suicide.  By thinking that someone was mentally ill provides an answer to the question “why did they do this?”

People with mental health issues must be on medication.

While there are lots of medications that do have significant benefits for the symptoms of mental illness, the fact is many medications can have side effects which effects a person’s quality of life.  The truth is that medication has benefits for some and should be looked at on an individual basis. There is more research to suggest there are other methods of treatment such as counselling and other therapies that can reduce the need of medication for a lot of consumers.

This myth is often reinforced by drug companies who rely on sales of medication to make money.

People with mental health issues should be locked up.

Hospitals and institutions play a significant part in mental health recovery. When consumers become “unwell” hospital can be a resource for people to get better, however, prolonged hospitalisation can have significant side effects that reduce the independence, assertiveness and life skills of consumers. The truth is, hospitals don’t have funds or resources to help all mental health consumers all the time. The majority of mental health consumers live well within the community. With the right supports and attitudes of the wider community, consumers can thrive and become valued members of the community.

This myth is caused by the fear that the wider public has towards mental health consumers which is caused by ignorance of mental health issues.

My aim is not to blame or criticise. It is my intention to identify these myths and create an awareness of the facts of mental health issues. With greater awareness and education, we can help to create a society that is inclusive and supportive of some of our most vulnerable and in need citizens.

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