Damaging Myths in Mental Health
Misconceptions surrounding mental health can be a major contributing factor to mental health stigma. The less something is understood, the more likely it is to be stigmatized against.
Although there are probably hundreds of common misconceptions about mental illness, I thought I would tackle a few mental health myths here today.
Myth #1: Mental Illness Is a Life Sentence
When some people hear the word mental illness, images of old decrepit psych hospitals on the top of a hill on the outskirts of time come to mind. People may think that once you are sent to one of these places, you will never return, or if you do, never be the same. I am living proof that this is a myth without any basis in fact or reality.
I was psychotic, suicidal, manic and paranoid and now lead a very productive and healthy life with no symptoms of mental illness due to finding the right medication as well as a wonderful therapist.
Myth #2: People Who Are Mentally Ill are Violent
This is perhaps one of the most common and destructive myths. But in fact, research indicates that people being treated for a mental illness are no more likely to be violent than the general population. People with a mental illness are actually much more likely to harm themselves than to ever harm someone else. Much of the misunderstanding surrounding this myth stems from the media’s portrayal of the mentally ill as violent and out of control.
Myth #3: Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is Barbaric and Painful
Although I never went through ECT, it was definitely brought up at several points during my depression. But I always issued a firm ‘no’ mainly due to the myths surrounding it. I could not get images from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Requiem for a Dream out of my mind that portray it as more terrifying than the illness itself. In fact, ECT therapy for depression has given thousands of people with debilitating depression a new lease on life. And patients are asleep and under anaesthesia for they do not feel anything. For an inside look into ECT, check out ‘Electroboy’ by Andy Behrman.
Myth #4: Schizophrenia and Dissociative Identity Disorder are the Same
This is a surprisingly common myth that I can’t quite figure out. But since I work in the mental health field, often with people suffering from schizophrenia, I am often asked how I deal with their different personalities. The short answer to that question is that schizophrenia and DID (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) are completely separate and can barely even be compared to one another. Schizophrenia involves audio and visual hallucinations, paranoia and delusions where DID is, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ‘the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states...that recurrently take control of behavior.’
Stigma requires misinformation in order to flourish. If we can slowly start tackling these mental health myths in our everyday life, we can only help life the burden of stigma from those whom it affects most.
Curry, C. (2012, June 4). Damaging Myths in Mental Health, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2012/06/damaging-myths-in-mental-health