At least 20-25% of us will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives. Having a mental health issue is incredibly tough. Ignorance in the community just increases the stigma. Here is my attempt to bust some of the common myths surrounding mental health.
1. It’s quite common for people to talk of “feeling schizophrenic” when they are in two minds, but it is a myth that schizophrenia means having a split personality. People affected by schizophrenia have one personality like everyone else. About one in every 100 people will develop schizophrenia, which is a medical condition that causes disordered thinking, hallucinations, delusions and low motivation. People suffering from schizophrenia often need medication and a lot of family and community understanding and support.
2. People with a mental illness do not have a greater tendency to be violent. In fact, those who struggle with an illness such as schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of violence, especially self-harm. There is an increase in the risk of violence when the patient is untreated or affected by drugs or alcohol.
3. People with depression can’t “just snap out of it.” Those sufferers of depression wish that they could click their fingers and feel better. They don’t want to be a burden to those around them and mostly try as hard as they can to put on a brave face around their colleagues and loved ones. A major depressive episode is most often treated with a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy, exercise, mindfulness and sometimes medication.
4. People who threaten suicide are not just attention seekers who have no intention of following through with it. We now know that those who threaten to take their own lives are at a greater risk of following through with their threats. Most of the time, they are not seeking attention, but trying to express how desperately low they feel. People who suicide do not end their lives for selfish reasons. They believe that everyone will be better off without them. They believe that there is no other option. We need to emphatically listen to anyone who is mentioning suicide and get them the help they urgently need.
5. Addiction is not a sign of weakness. Having an addiction can severely interfere with life. Breaking the addiction takes a lot of strength, treatment and support from family and friends. The very last thing addicts need is people thinking that they are weak and are simply lacking in will power or self-discipline.