Mental illness is still widely misunderstood, there are so many stereotypes, assumptions and misconceptions, so I thought I’d shine a little light and talk about some of the misconceptions surrounding mental illness. If you don’t know much about mental illness get ready to be educated and if you know a thing or two hopefully this makes you feel a little less alone in it all. Mental illnesses can be overwhelming to those who suffer and the people around them but having a little bit of an idea of how it all works can help make everyone feel more in control of the situation.
Everyones experiences will be different and you may not agree with everything I’ve said and thats completely fine, I can only speak from my own experiences and the knowledge I’ve gained through others.
Whatever you are dealing no matter how big or small you think it is you deserve support and love. Please reach out to someone you trust or a crisis helpline if you are struggling. You deserve to feel okay.
I talk about mental illnesses, self harm, suicide and medication in this post. Please don’t read this if you will be triggered, you need to put your own health and safety first. I’m sending you all my love.
Depression is the same as being sad
It isn’t, its just not. Can we please get rid of that notion because everyone is meant to feel sad sometimes, its healthy to release your emotions and be upset sometimes. Depression is the feeling of being low, sad, empty, detached, unmotivated, worthless, numb etc for a long period of time. Depression is so much more than feeling sad, you don’t even have to feel particularly sad to have depression. Don’t trivialise the struggle of having depression by throwing it around without thought.
Anxiety is the same as getting nervous
Can we see a bit of a pattern here? Again you are meant to feel nervous sometimes, if you have a speech in front of people its natural to feel nervous but you don’t necessarily have anxiety. Anxiety is a diagnosed condition which causes you to feel a lot more than nerves before you have to do a presentation. Anxiety, like depression, is a more constant and uncontrollable state, you can’t always pinpoint a reason and it doesn’t just go away once the thing causing you to feel nervous passes.
Anxiety and Depression are the only acceptable mental illnesses to have
Thankfully mental illness is being spoken about more and being taken seriously as it should be but anxiety and depression aren’t the only mental illnesses. Theres Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Bipolar, Schizophrenia, ADHD, PTSD, Eating Disorders, dissociative identity disorder (DID) etc. Theres honestly so many and everyone that has a mental illness deserves support, care, love, access to professional help and RESPECT. You are valid and deserve to receive help to overcome/cope with whatever you are going through.
Only girls have mental illnesses
This toxic way of thinking seriously needs to end. So many men suffer in silence because of the stigma surrounding men and mental illnesses. No matter your gender or age if you are struggling you aren’t weak and you aren’t lesser because of it! Every single person deserves to be heard and supported.
You’re just being lazy
You have no idea what someone is going through internally. Sometimes having a mental illness can make getting out of bed seem like climbing a mountain. Before you jump to conclusions and label someone as lazy, stop for a second and just be there for them. They may just need some time to take it easy, if you make sure they know you’re there and help them with some basic self care like making sure they’ve had something to eat, had a shower, maybe offer to sit with them in the backyard for a bit just to get a little sunshine into their day. What you consider lazy could be someone trying their best at the time, don’t be so quick to make assumptions.
“But you’re happy, you don’t really have a mental illness”
Ha. Yeah you’re wrong. Mental illness doesn’t make you this constant grey cloud, sure it can 100% affect your happiness but it doesn’t mean you’re always unhappy. In fact a lot of people who have mental illnesses can come across/actually are outgoing, funny and happy. Thats why you should always lookout for all your friends, you never know what people are going through just by looking at them.
If you have a mental illness you are automatically suicidal
In some cases sure suicidal thoughts, tendencies and attempts are definitely something that goes along with a persons mental illness but it’s not the same for everyone. Instead of assuming, listen to them and PLEASE don’t freak out if someone opens up about any thing related to suicide, just be there for them and help them receive professional support to deal with what they’re going through.
Medication is a bad thing
Medication can be a vital step in someones journey with their mental health. People take medication for a heart condition, how is taking medication for a brain condition any different? If medication isn’t something you personally want to incorporate into your own recovery thats fine you don’t have to, but if someone does that’s their decision. It can be a necessary step in aiding the person to get to a stable headspace to allow further recovery.
Medication is a cure
While medication can be an important aspect in someones recovery it isn’t a cure. For example if you suffer from depression taking medication won’t “make you happy” it will just bring the chemicals up to a stable level so you can function and start to work on the other aspects of your mental health.
People with a mental illness can’t maintain healthy relationships
It can affect/alter your relationships but people with mental illnesses are just people. They can have healthy romantic relationships, great friendships and a healthy family dynamic, they just have a mental illness too. Mental illnesses can definitely have an affect but you learn ways to work through it.
Self harm is done for attention
Self harm is a complex and personal thing, you can’t definitively label why someone self harms without the personally actually saying why themselves. Self harm is commonly a maladaptive coping mechanism that a person forms to cope with whatever they may be going though. It is commonly quite a secretive thing due to the stigma surrounding it and the persons own feelings of guilt, shame etc that can go along with it.
Can we get the idea out of our heads that if someone is doing it for attention they don’t deserve to be taken seriously because if someone is harming themselves and making it known they may not know how to verbalise what they’re struggling with so why would you then invalidate them when you could just try to listen to them and help them receive the professional support they need.
If you are struggling with self harm or thoughts of self harming please reach out to someone you trust or a crisis helpline.
There’s only one type of self harm/there are less serious forms of self harm
Self harm is the deliberate act of harming yourself, there are forms that are commonly associated but there’s not a definitive list of what is and isn’t self harm. If you are intentionally doing something to cause yourself harm or put yourself in danger it is valid and it deserves to be taken seriously. Any form of self harm even just thinking about self harming is serious, you don’t have to reach a certain level to be taken seriously.
You need to have a reason to go to therapy
Anyone can go to therapy, you don’t have to be dealing with something that is deemed “bad enough” just to reach out and get help. Sometimes you just need someone to listen and that’s okay.
You have to have a bad life to have a mental illness
Heres the thing mental illnesses don’t give a shit if you have a happy family, heaps of money, amazing friends… you could have a good life and still have a mental illness and you shouldn’t feel guilty because other people “have it worse”. Pain is not comparable, you can’t compare your life to others and feel any form of guilt for struggling.
Having a mental illness is an acceptable reason for abusing someone else
There are some mental illnesses that can cause the person to not be in control of their behaviour and if thats the case you need to work on putting things into place in order to keep everyone safe and informed about what is happening. But you can’t intentionally mentally, emotionally or physically abuse someone and use your mental illness as an excuse for doing so, it isn’t fair and it doesn’t take away the fact that you are intentionally hurting someone else.
But you can talk about it so you must not be “that bad”
This toxic mind set that if you open up about it you must not be that bad is so damaging. If someone has built up the strength to open up about what they’re going through and they’re shut down they may not have that courage again and it can cause so much damage. A problem shared is a problem halved, so if someone opens up whether it be to one person or more publicly that doesn’t make what they’ve been/are going through any less valid.
Its cool to have a mental illness
The romanisation and glamorisation of mental illness is so harmful. It isn’t cool to be depressed, its not fun to have anxiety, its not edgy to have bipolar… you get the idea. This glamorisation can lead people to get into a very dangerous mindset while also taking away the seriousness of having a mental illness. It can also make it harder for those suffering to open up about it.
People with mental illnesses are crazy
No. Just like someone with a broken arm isn’t now a broken person, they are just someone who has a broken arm. People with a mental illness aren’t “crazy” they are just a person who happens to have a mental illness. Thank you for coming to my ted talk.
That was just the tip of the iceberg, mental illness is still so stigmatised in society and its something that needs to be better understood so those suffering feel able to open up and receive the support they need. I hope you enjoyed reading, maybe you learned something or felt a little less alone.
Stay safe and take care of yourself.
All the love x