Myths and Facts Regarding Mental Health

By: Ryan Brady and Sejal Sangani

Trigger warning: This article focuses on subjects that may be triggering to those who have suffered from mental illnesses, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.

DISCLAIMER: This is the third of a series of articles regarding mental health. This issue focuses on debunking common misconceptions about mental illness. If you have any tips, concerns, or topics for future issues, please contact us at rbrady20@hb.edu or ssangani20@hb.edu. We hope that our series helps you learn more about mental health!

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.

Fact: You don’t give a person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. In fact, talking openly about suicide is extremely helpful and raises awareness.

Myth: Mentally ill people should be taken to institutions to get help.

Fact: While psych wards can be helpful to someone suffering from mental illness, this is not the only option. Many people who struggle with mental illness take medication, see a therapist, attend group therapy, in addition to many other methods. Many people also do a combination of these things. Psych wards are not the only treatment option.

 

Myth: Mental illness is fake to get attention.

Fact: Mental illness is a real problem that affects 20% of adults and 45% of the global population experiences at least one mental illness throughout the course of their lifetime. There are over 3 million cases of GAD and depression every year. People who are diagnosed with mental illness are seriously struggling. Some disorders can even cause people to not want attention at all.

 

Myth: All mentally ill people are dangerous or unstable and want to hurt someone.

Fact: after the Texas shooting, the CIC deemed it as a mental health issue. This perpetuated the myth that those with mental illness are dangerous/want to hurt others, while this is false. Usually, mentally ill people do not pose a threat to others around them, but rather, are struggling internally with oneself. In fact, only 3%-5% of violent acts are due to mental illness. People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the victim of a violent attack.

 

Myth: People with mental illness can just snap out of it.

Fact: A person having mental illness is due to a variety of factors, many out of one’s control. Some things that can cause mental illness are genes, physical illness, injury, life experiences, and a family history of mental health problems. Having a mental illness is not at all correlated to someone not “wanting to get better” or being able to “snap out of it”. It’s to the same degree as a physical illness; you wouldn’t tell someone that “It’s just cancer. Get over it”.

 

Myth: Having anxiety equates being nervous

Fact: An anxiety disorder is different than being nervous before a test or a big event. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorders feel “invisible, different, ostracized, alone,” (Jodi Aman, psychologist and author of You 1, Anxiety 0). Nerves disappear with the stressor, while anxiety stays with a person. Anxiety occurs for no reason at all, and is usually out of one’s control. Anxiety disorders result in panic or anxiety attacks, which often involve physical symptoms such as shaking, nausea, fatigue, muscle tension etc. Scientifically, anxiety and nervousness are both caused by the same hormone, but anxiety takes over the amygdala of the brain, creating a “fight or flight” response.

 

Myth: “Triggered” is a meme word

Fact: “Triggered” is a psychological term and should not be used to describe how you felt after a petty struggle/event. For example, someone is not triggered if there were no chips left in the cafeteria.

 

Myth: It’s okay to joke about mental illness or suicide

Fact: Depression is a real mental illness, and it’s frustrating to those who struggle with it when neurotypical people say things like “the brown bag is closed; I’m so depressed,” or “wow, you’re so OCD”. By making a joke of mental illness, people are feeding into the idea that mental illness is fake or made up, and it hurts mentally ill people to feel that their struggles are illegitimized.

 

Myth: Self-harm is just cutting

Fact: self-harm is expressed in a multitude of ways. It is defined as anything done to purposely hurt oneself. There are many forms of it, but most popularly, people cut, burn, scratch, or pierce their skin, hit/punch objects and pulling hair out.

 

Myth: People who self-harm are also suicidal

Fact: While people who feel suicidal may also self-harm, not everyone who self-harms is suicidal. Often times, people self-harm in order to feel “alive”. They have reached an emotional point where they feel so numb and empty that physical pain is this only solace.

Myth: Those who have depression are suicidal

Fact: Often times, people have depressive disorders without any type of suicidal ideation whatsoever. While suicidal thoughts/actions are often symptomatic of depression, not all depressed people struggle with suicide.

 

Myth: All suicidal people have depression

Fact: People who struggle with suicide do not necessarily have depression. Anxiety disorders, OCD, and many more mental illnesses can cause suicidal ideation. Nonetheless, it is still a problem if the person has depression or not