Mental health myths

inline-icon-clock 4 MIN READ 09/05/22
ESG

Zemfira Knott Director of Northcourt
09/05/22
ESG
inline-icon-clock 4 MIN READ
Zemfira Knott Director of Northcourt

Mental health myths

As with our physical health, our mental wellbeing is something that needs to be nurtured and maintained. However, despite growing awareness of mental health issues at a societal level globally, damaging myths still persist. For those in need of guidance and help, this creates barriers and fosters misconceptions among others who could provide support. The myth busting tips below will hopefully help curb this lack of understanding and enable better recognition of the need for help in others and also ourselves.

Myth 1: A sign of weakness

Asking for help and discussing symptoms of mental illness is a crucial first step in treatment; not an indication of weakness.

Anyone can suffer from mental health issues and at some point in life most people do, yet the perception of ‘mental weakness’ persists, particularly among men.

We must work together to encourage dialogue to dispel the notion that ‘weakness’ has any place in mental wellbeing conversations.

Myth 2: Those with mental health problems won’t face discrimination

Undoubtedly attitudes toward mental health are shifting and awareness of the everyday struggles many face is spreading. However as a society we mustn’t grow complacent. A survey released by Time to Change showed that almost nine out of ten people with mental health problems (87%) felt the negative impact of discrimination. We must recognise this reality and address how we can create a culture, both in the workplace and in wider society, of support, not stigma.

Myth 3: Social isolation and loneliness have no effect on health

It’s irrefutable that smoking half a packet of cigarettes a day is detrimental to our health. What is lesser known is that, statistically, social isolation is just as dangerous. A 2015 study has shown that the likelihood of death was 26% for people who reported being lonely, 29 % for those who were socially isolated and 32 % for those living alone.

Loneliness can also intensify the symptoms of neurologic conditions according to a 2020 study. Out of the 1527 participants with Parkinson’s disease, those that answered ‘true’ to the statement “I am Lonely” reported approximately 55% greater symptom severity over time.

Myth 4: Only the unsociable feel lonely

It would be a mistake to assume that those experiencing loneliness are in that position through their own fault, lack of social skills or due to their desire to keep to themselves. This would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the wider issue and unhelpfully assigns unnecessary blame as there is no link between social skills and loneliness.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate and even those who might be perceived as the ‘life of the party’ or a ‘social butterfly’ can experience the debilitating and harmful symptoms of isolation and loneliness.

Myth 5: There’s nothing I can do to help

Friends, family and colleagues can play an important role in supporting someone in need of treatment. While it may seem overwhelming, there are in fact steps we can all take to extend a helping hand:

  • Communication: Remind those around you that you are there and happy to talk and importantly, listen
  • Education: Learning information while also sharing what you’ve learnt. This is essential as we work to dispel myths and combat misinformation
  • Respect: Treat those with mental health struggles with respect, just as you would those with a physical illness, and help fight discrimination when it comes to housing, employment and education
  • Language: Don’t define a person by their diagnosis and be aware of damaging labels such as “crazy”. Reframe how you refer to someone using person-first language. For example, instead of ‘mentally ill’ try using ‘people with a mental illness’.

There is also an urgent need for greater balance in the current, overwhelmingly negative terms of reference to reflect the positive aspects that also often come with particular types of cognitive makeup. For example, Greta Thunberg regards her Asperger’s syndrome as a superpower, while the ‘H’ in ADHD has propelled many to become highly successful. Through non-judgemental dialogue and greater appreciation of how we are all wired differently, we can become more educated about the downsides and the benefits and ultimately be better equipped to maintain our own mental health and that of others.

 

 

 

If you are experiencing symptoms of mental illness and/or having suicidal thoughts, help is available. Use the following support groups and lifelines to get the care you need.

  • Seek advice from your GP
  • Call NHS choices on 111
  • Mind info line: 0300 123 3393
  • Crisis Text Line – text shout to 85258
  • Side by Side Mind’s supportive online community – join here: https://sidebyside.mind.org.uk/