May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and what better time to talk about the experience I had a couple of days ago. One day while completing an intake, I asked someone if they were ever admitted and received treatment at a psychiatric unit in a hospital. With a confused look, he asked, “what do you mean?” As I was trying to find another way to describe the hospital, someone abruptly interrupted and said, “A crazy hospital, have you ever been in a crazy hospital?” I cringed as every syllable of the phrase exited her mouth because at that moment, she had unintentionally played a role in perpetuating a negative stereotype of mental health.
It is important to be careful with your word choice when you choose to describe an individual or their mental health. It is unfair to stereotype anyone battling a mental illness as “crazy” just as it is inappropriate to label someone with a chronic physical health condition as “contagious.” Mental illnesses are just as important as physical illnesses. Myths and negative stereotypes surrounding mental health are a direct cause for many individuals not seeking treatment. Studies have shown that individuals with mental health issues internalize negative stigmas associated with their illness, which results in feelings of shame and judgment. According to the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), only 25 % of those suffering from mental health issues believe that others are empathetic towards their struggle(s). That implies that the majority suffering feels a lack of support from others.
As a mental health clinician, it is my obligation to educate individuals on what mental health is and the importance of taking care of your body and mind. First, understand that mental health focuses on our emotional, psychological and social well-being. Mental health is vital because it profoundly influences the way we think, feel and act. It is sometimes hard to determine how one becomes mentally ill because various factors contribute to mental health: (a) family history, (b) biological factors, and/or (c) traumatic and non-traumatic life experiences.
There are many types of mental illnesses and related conditions, and just like any other illness or condition, mental illness/conditions ranges from mild to acute. Just so that you can become familiar with some common disorders, in no particular order, they include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety disorders, Autism, Bipolar, Depression, Eating disorders, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Schizophrenia. The good news is that mental illnesses can be managed properly with the help of therapeutic interventions, and often psychotropic medication.
Common forms of physical health interventions such as therapy and medication resemble those of mental health illnesses. By the way, therapy is not only for those with identifiable mental disorders. For example, many individuals seek mental health services because they are having a difficult time adjusting to life or may be experiencing great distress, as a result of adversities. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the outcome, identify signs of mental health issues, and seek help from a licensed professional. Don’t ignore your mental health. Don’t wait, educate yourself by joining National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and taking the StigmaFree Me Pledge and vow to be the change in debunking the stigmas of mental health. Even, if you may not personally be affected, understanding and taking mental health serious, may help save a life.
Debunking Mental Health Myths
Myth: Mental health problems won’t affect me.
Fact: Mental health conditions are more common than not. According to Mental Health America and NAMI, one in every five Americans live with a mental health condition, and the rates of depression are increasing. Also, Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Be mindful that although you may not suffer from it, someone close to you may. Educate yourself.
Myth: Mental health problems do not exist in youth
Fact: Research shows that 11.01% of America’s youth between the ages of 12 and 17 report suffering from at least one major depressive episode. 58.5 % of youth with significant depression do not receive any mental health treatment. Youth mental health problems are often results of social, biological or psychological factors. Identifying early warning signs, which usually occurs before 14 years of age, and providing proper interventions will likely decrease development delays and disruption in their education, home life, and relationships.
Myth: Therapy is a waste of money; all you’re doing is paying someone to keep your secrets. Just Pray about it!
Fact: There are many forms of treatment for mental illnesses; whether it is talk therapy, lifestyle changes, or medication. However, be aware that therapy is available even if you don’t identify with any of the diagnosable illnesses. Each intervention is only as effective as you make it. Prayer is good, but also remember the bible state faith without works is dead. God places professionals on this earth for a reason; it’s time we utilize our resources.