We asked a doctor to debunk these three mental illness myths
If we could project three words into the sky (Batman-style), we know exactly which ones we’d pick: Mental. Health. Matters. Though May is Mental Health Month, we feel that such an important topic should be on our radars 24/7. We should constantly be working to take care of our minds and to, most importantly, defeat harmful myths that encourage us to do otherwise.
In the name of vanquishing false rumors, we reached out to Dr. Debra Brooks (the Attending Physician at GoHealth Urgent Care) and asked if she could debunk three of the most common mental illness misconceptions she’s come across. This is what she had to say.
1. Myth: Mental illness is a choice.
One cannot choose their mental illness — period. Dr. Brooks tells us, “It’s easy to confuse a Generalized Anxiety Disorder with someone who is feeling anxious, but there is a huge difference between the person who gets nervous about taking exams and someone who becomes incapacitated by their anxiety over common life situations.” The same goes for other mental illnesses that don’t simply go away after you talk about it.
“While all of us may panic at some point in our lives or feel so sad, we just want to go off and cry for a while,” says Dr. Brooks. “The diagnosis of mental illness is only made when the behavior is pervasive, chronic, and debilitating.”
2. Myth: Those with mental health disorders are unable to contribute to society.
Sadly, many still live under the impression that they’re flawed if they deal with mental health issues. This can then prevent them from seeking treatment and taking medications that can help to alleviate the symptoms they’re dealing with. This couldn’t be more false.
According to Dr. Brooks, “The prevalence of treated, productive patients in our work force is huge. Nearly one-third of all people will go through a period of depression at some point in their life. These are teachers, lawyers, nurses, students, business professionals, your neighbor next door, and in any area of our society.”
In other words, you never know what someone is dealing with behind-the-scenes and there’s no reason to believe that those coping with mental illness can’t be successful.
3. Myth: If you don’t have mental health issues, there’s nothing you can do to help.
Even if you don’t have a diagnosable mental health problem, you’ve most likely dealt with common mental illness symptoms at one point in your life: anxiety, sadness, fear, trouble sleeping, helplessness, the inability to concentrate. This paves the way for sympathy.
“It’s important for us not to judge our family, friends, and coworkers for their problems, since that only makes it harder for them to feel comfortable getting help,” Dr. Brooks explains. “Everyone has their story, and rarely do we know the details of another person’s trauma. For example, one statistic says that one out of every four women has been abused. That’s staggering. If you knew your friend had been through such tragedy, you would, of course, want to help her.”
Even if you feel that you personally cannot help, there are plenty of resources you can promote. Most companies have an anonymous mental health resource that can be found via your HR department. Doctors offices and hospitals should also have information about services that can help with specific mental health issues. There’s also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.