Mental Health Myths: Debunking Mental Health

Medically reviewed by: Erika McElroy, Ph.D.
Tuesday, May 19 2020

Mental health problems are more common than you might think. One in five people have a mental health condition. That’s over 50 million adults in the U.S. Yet more than half of people with a mental health condition don’t receive treatment because they’re worried about being treated differently. Or, they’re worried about the stigma and misconceptions around mental health. 

While there is an increasing amount of awareness being raised about mental health, there are still long-held beliefs, biases, and popular opinions that are barriers to those who truly struggle with their mental health and need support. 

Let’s debunk three common misconceptions about mental health. 

Myth: There is nothing you can do to improve your mental health. 
Truth: There are steps you can take to care for and improve your mental health. 

Many people wrongly believe that you're either mentally healthy or you're not. The belief that there is nothing you can do to improve or care for your mental health can be dangerous — it can lead you to ignore or neglect your mental health when there are plenty of treatment options available.

The truth about mental health is that you can take practical steps to care for and improve it. Lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity, getting more sleep, and improving your nutrition are all practical things that can positively impact the state of your mental health. Therapy and — in some cases, medication — can also help.

Myth: A mental health condition is a sign of mental weakness. 
Truth: Mental health can be impacted by a wide range of factors — anyone can struggle with mental health issues. 

Another dangerous belief about mental health is that having a mental health condition is the same as mental weakness. This belief is dangerous because it can cause you to avoid seeking help. Believing that struggling with your mental health is a sign of weakness can lead to shame, isolation, and a whole host of other serious consequences.

The truth about mental health is that it is a combination of factors — your genetics, physical condition, home environment, culture, and a number of other elements can impact your mental health at different times in your life. There are many people who have attained success and are at the top of their given professions who struggle with their mental health. Their struggles and their success show that it is possible to be resilient and still deal with mental health issues.

Myth: Medication is the only way to deal with mental health issues.
Truth: There are a number of options that can be effective in caring for your mental health. 

Some people avoid seeking help for mental health because they believe that medication is the only way to deal with mental health issues. Medication can help improve mental health in a number of situations, but it is by no means the only option.

The truth about mental health is that it should always be approached with a multi-faceted treatment plan. A multi-faceted approach may include a combination of factors such as lifestyle changes, one-on-one talk therapy, family or couples therapy, education provided in therapy (such as self-help education), or psychiatric treatments such as the prescribing and monitoring of medication. Learn more about the difference between psychiatry and therapy here

Reducing mental health stigma

When it comes to talking about mental health, consider these tips to help reduce stigma. 

1. Be mindful of language. 

Language that speaks negatively about mental health conditions and labels people supports stigma. Use person-centered language to separate the person from the condition. 

2. Educate yourself about mental health.  

Most people are surprised by how many people experience a mental health condition in the United States. These people may be your friends, family members, and coworkers. To learn more about mental health, look to reputable sources, like NAMI, to help increase your awareness, understanding, and support. 

3. Share, if you feel comfortable. 

There is nothing more powerful and courageous than sharing personal experiences. Hearing your mental health experience might be the nudge someone needs to seek professional support.

So, if you’re feeling unsure and want to talk to someone, know that seeking help for your mental health is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a sign of strength. With the help of a mental health professional, you can explore treatment options that are right for you and gain confidence with skills that you can use to manage and improve your well-being. 

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