Mental health problems are a growing concern in the UK, with the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbating the situation.
However, there is still a massive lack of understanding and information out there surrounding our mental wellbeing. Today (Sunday 10th October 2021) is ‘World Mental Health Day’ so to mark the day, I want to smash some of the common myths and misconceptions.
Myth 1: "Mental health problems are rare"
This is not true. Mental health problems are widespread and can affect a variety of people from every walk of life. Statistics show that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year - with mixed anxiety and depression being the most common mental disorder in Britain.
Myth 2: "Asking for help with mental health problems is a sign of weakness"
Getting help if you are suffering with mental health problems is crucial and talking about your symptoms is the first step in getting the help you need. Anyone can suffer with a mental health issue and so it’s important to openly discuss symptoms which you are experiencing.
Myth 3: "You can’t recover from a mental health illness"
Incorrect. You can recover from a mental health illness and many people do. Treatment and recovery are ongoing processes that happen over a period of time and the first step on the road to recovery is getting the help you need. With serious mental health problems, finding ways of managing your condition is important – getting better may not necessarily mean going back to how your life was before the illness but finding ways to take control of certain areas of your life.
Myth 4: "There is no discrimination against people with mental health problems"
Whilst attitudes about mental health problems are improving – particularly with the help of charities and other organisations raising awareness of the issues involved, individuals can still face discrimination. A survey by Time to Change showed that almost nine out of ten people with mental health problems (87%) reported the negative impact of stigma and discrimination on their lives. Visit their website for more information on the impact of the discrimination.
Myth 5 - Children don’t experience mental health illnesses?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, approximately one in ten children and young people are affected by mental health problems. This can include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder - and can often be as a direct response to what is happening in their lives (such as school stress or bullying.)
There are a range of different people you can speak to if you feel your child may be suffering from a mental health condition – for example, a school nurse, school counsellor or educational psychologist may be able to help. Alternatively, your GP will be able to advise and may refer your child for further help.
Myth 6 - You can’t work with a mental health illness?
Incorrect. People with mental health problems can be just as productive as other employees. Whilst starting work, staying in work or returning to work after a period of mental ill-health can be difficult, it’s not impossible, and there can be many benefits to working. For example, it may give an opportunity to make new friends, improve your financial security and give you a greater sense of identity and purpose.
If you’re unemployed and want to get back into work, the staff at your local Job Centre, your GP or your mental health worker can all give you advice on the subject.
Myth 7 – “Therapy and self-help are a waste of time – just take medication”
Treatment for mental health problems can vary depending on the individual and could include medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
Self-help therapy (such as self-help books or computer counselling) can have some advantages, for example, it’s convenient, cheap and you can do it in your own time.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy which focuses on how you think about the things going on in your life – your thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes - and how these impacts on the way you behave and deal with emotional problems. It then looks at how you can change any negative patterns of thinking or behaviour that may be causing you difficulties. In turn, this can change the way you feel.
Myth 8 – “You can’t help someone with a mental health illness”
Not true. There are lots of simple, everyday ways you can support someone who has a mental health problem. Listening to them talk and reminding the other person that you are there and care for them can make a big difference.