The stigma around mental health may be trending downward, but skepticism still remains. Mindpath Health’s Maria Abenes, Ed.D., talks about lingering myths that continue to define how we talk about mental health.

7 Misconceptions About Mental Health_Maria Abenes, EdD_Mindpath Health

Mental health care has come a long way in being integrated into health and wellness plans. Depression and anxiety rates increased dramatically across the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, and mental health was considered just as important as physical health.

But some skepticism remains about the importance of mental health care and the efficacy of treatment. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about mental health:

1. Seeking mental health care is sign of failure

Sometimes, admitting we need help with a mental health issue can feel like we’re admitting a horrible secret. We may worry about attracting attention or being judged by others. Yet, seeking mental health care is no different than getting treated for a broken ankle. Reaching out for help is a sign that we prioritize our health. It’s a sign of love for ourselves. In fact, the sooner we get help for any health issue, the better.

2. People with mental illness are weak

No one chooses to have a mental illness, just like no one chooses to have cancer. The most common causes of mental illness include genetics, physical injury or disability, trauma or abuse, or changes in brain chemistry. Most people get help because they need help — not because they are weak.

3. Mental illness makes people violent

There has been much debate on whether — or how — mental illness is related to violence. In fact, violence is more closely linked to lower socioeconomic status, age, and gender. Certain personality disorders or people with substance dependence may be more prone to violence, but this can be managed with proper treatment.

4. People with mental illness can’t hold a steady job

One of the stereotypes associated with mental illness is homelessness. This is an extreme scenario. In fact, one in five American adults have a mental illness. Chances are you already work with a few of them. The stigma around workplace mental health still exists. Employees may withhold information about mental health conditions for fear of retribution. They may resist getting treatment because they worry someone will find out. Left untreated, these problems can spiral out of control and begin to disrupt productivity at work.

5. Taking medication will alter your personality

A medication should never alter your core personality. The purpose of medication is to help us manage our thoughts, feelings, and moods and achieve better mental health. Your mental health clinician will conduct a rigorous exam to diagnose and discuss your condition accurately. Should medication be included in the treatment plan, clinicians are trained to monitor whether it is producing the desired effects closely. They will also keep an eye on any negative side effects and make adjustments as needed. Your clinician is your best resource to learn about potential side effects and what to do about them.

6. Psychiatry isn’t a medical science

Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in mental health. They attend medical school, complete residencies, and must pass licensure exams to practice medicine. This combination of training allows them to approach mental health problems from both a physical and psychological perspective. This makes them uniquely qualified to diagnose conditions and prescribe medication.

7. Mental health isn’t my problem

Chances are you know at least one person who suffers from mental illness. It could be your boss at work or it could be your child. Mental illness can affect anyone regardless of age, race, religion, or income. Untreated mental health conditions can lead to an increase in suicide. It can also significantly affect the workplace, education, law enforcement, the criminal justice system, emergency and social services, and the entire health care industry.

Raising awareness about good mental health care is essential to accepting ourselves and others and the challenges we face. Myths and misconceptions hinder us from truly exploring the opportunity for better health and wellness.

Want to learn more about your mental health? Visit our Patient Resources for articles, tips, and education from Mindpath Health’s expert clinicians.

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