According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as “a state of wellbeing in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” Mental health is no doubt a complex issue that can be easily misunderstood by others. Unfortunately, despite a progress in recognition of the importance of mental health issues, there are still many social stigmas and dangerous attitudes about mental illnesses that are lurking in today’s society. These stigmas often result in discrimination and make it difficult for people to seek the help that they need and to talk about issues that need to be discussed. Thus, there exists a need for myths about mental illnesses and health to be debunked.
It’s time for us to examine our beliefs about mental health and illnesses and whether they are true.
Myths or Facts?
#1 Mental health illness is equivalent to depression.
Mental illnesses is actually an umbrella term for a wide range of illnesses, including but not limited to depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and eating disorders etc. Each condition also ranges in severity and symptoms that are being displayed.
#2 People with mental illnesses are not actually sick – they are just “attention seeking” and need to “get a grip on themselves”.
Although the exact causes of mental disorders are unknown, an increase in research regarding mental illnesses show that mental disorders can have a biological nature. For example, research suggests that depressed people have a deficiency of the neurotransmitters serotonin and noradrenaline, while an imbalance of chemicals such as gamma-aminobutyric acid, serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline have been found in patients in anxiety disorders. It is near consensus that certain inherited genes can predispose you to mental health issues and they interact with triggering environmental and social factors to put one at a high risk of developing mental health illnesses.
In conclusion, mental health illnesses are equally as important as physical illnesses and one usually needs to visit a professional in order to recover.
#3 There is no cure for mental illnesses.
There are cases of mental illnesses which are long-lasting and chronic such as ongoing, lifelong psychosis that may severely limit a person’s daily activities and social life. However, with the right social support and professional help, these cases can be managed well, and people often learn how to deal with relapses and to live with their symptoms.
With other mental disorders such as mild depression, there are many treatment options today that can be used individually or combined to create an effective treatment plan. These include medication, different forms of therapy, and counselling or support groups. When tailored and used effectively, patients can make a full recovery and work towards living a life similar to that before diagnosis.
#4 Mental illnesses will never affect me./ Mental illnesses are rare.
Although you might not have experienced a mental illness yourself, it is very likely that a friend, family worker, colleague or classmate might be experiencing difficulties with mental illnesses in silence.
According to a media release by the Institute of Mental Health Singapore in 2011, 1 in 17 people in Singapore have suffered from major depressive disorder at some point in their life while alcohol abuse and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) affected 1 in 32 and 1 in 33 people respectively.
Multiple studies also found that Singapore was the OCD capital of the world with higher rates of the illness compared with the United State or Europe [3a,b].
#5 People with mental health problems are violent and aggressive.
A very common myth is that all people with schizophrenia are violent. However, a good majority of people with mental illnesses are unlikely to be more violent than anyone else. Various studies and publications show that mental illnesses are not usually linked to crime. For example, severely mentally ill people account for only 3 to 5 percent of violent crimes in the general population in the United States .
How can I help?
It is important that we start challenging what we believe about mental illnesses and how we view people with mental illnesses. We also need to think about where we get our information from. Television series, movies, news station and various media platform often over-sensationalise their stories instead of trying to accurately represent what most people go through. You can begin by reading more from sources that are credible and verified such as https://www.imh.com.sg/wellness/ or talking to people who have experienced a mental illness and are comfortable with doing so.
Written by: Jing Yi
Jing Yi is a currently a medical student who hopes to reach out to people who are afraid to seek help and inspire people to speak up about their experiences by writing. She strongly believes that there should be no stigma on mental health illnesses, and would be more than happy to offer a hug and a conversation to whoever that needs it.
References, Links & Sources:
- a. http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/call-for-greater-support-as-more-in-singapore-suffer-anxiety-illness
b. Chong, S. A., Abdin, E., Vaingankar, J. A., Heng, D., Sherbourne, C., Yap, M., . . . Subramaniam, M. (2012a). A population-based survey of mental disorders in Singapore. Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore, 41(2), 49.