Mental Health Stigmas: 5 Inaccurate Assumptions about Mental Illness!

1) Crazy and Uncontrollable

The media’s depiction of mental illness hasn’t been the kindest. From asylums to dramatic depictions of the mentally insane, the highly skewed representation of mental illness has led to the false idea that mentally ill people are erratic and maniacal. This creates stigmas that discourage the mentally ill from seeking appropriate help in a time where mental disorders are becoming more common globally. 

2) Mental illness being a ‘choice’ or a phase 

‘Snap out of it.’ 

There’s still an assumption that people with mental illnesses just aren’t trying hard enough to get better. This underscores how mental illness is still seen as less legitimate than physical illnesses despite its ability to be debilitating too. Coping with one’s mental illness is a constant journey that requires affirmation and time. To suggest that someone can ‘choose’ to recover is a harmful mentality that questions someone’s mental health journey and sets back their recovery. 

3) Unable to function in daily life 

While it’s true that some severe forms of mental illness can be debilitating, milder forms of mental illness are common among many people. Anxiety, for example, is estimated to be the most ‘prevalent mental health disorder’ (via: ourworldindata). This certainly does not mean that anyone with mental illness is ‘broken’ or unable to function in relationships, work or daily life! Mental illness can be managed with appropriate professional help and a strong support system. 

4) Medication 

Medication for mental illness varies. Not everyone who has a mental disorder will have to rely on medication. The absence of medication does not necessarily negate the existence of someone’s mental illness.

On the other hand, stigmas around mental health medication exist too, with the idea that mental health pills signal over dependency or an ‘unfix-able’ condition. Such taboos can be harmful when psychiatric medication (as prescribed by a mental health professional) can help relieve the severe effects of mental illness experienced by some. 

5) Looking or acting a ‘certain way’ to qualify as mentally ill 

Back to the issue on mental illness stereotypes, someone doesn’t have to be seen in a constant depressive state or act incoherently to qualify as being mentally ill. It’s time to recognise that mental disorders are increasingly common globally - many people harbour mild to severe mental illnesses despite appearing ‘normal’ on the outside. Be there to provide a listening ear and refer professional resources when asked for help.

Most of all, be kind to yourself and others. Mental illness is an issue that requires patience and an acceptance of professional help (if needed!). Let’s not allow stigmas and assumptions to define mental health!

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