There are many myths associated with mental illness. Here are just a few thoughts to challenge stereotypes and help create a culture that is stigma free.
Mental illness is not a choice.
Mental illness is not a choice. By definition, mental illnesses are conditions that cause people distress – that is, they cause disruptions to someone’s daily life and functioning. No one chooses to struggle with maintaining their mental health and no one would choose a mental illness. But, acceptance of living with a mental illness is often necessary to finding a healthier path forward through support and treatment.
You are not addicted to suffering.
Similar to the myth about choice, we as humans also aren’t “addicted” to suffering. Often times this is something that you’ll hear come out of the mouths of people who are otherwise supportive and want the best for their loved one who is struggling with some mental health issue. It’s also common to hear when someone is dealing with a toxic relationship or otherwise negative habit someone has a hard time changing. This addiction belief undermines very real barriers to change such as dealing with trauma and the concept of secondary gain (more on this in a later post).
Not all people with mental health conditions take medication to manage symptoms.
Many people living with mental health conditions do take medications to manage their mental health issues. That doesn’t mean that everyone does though. There is not one right path to health and its up to the individual to decide what path makes the most sense for them and their lifestyle. Some people will use a variety of methods for support such as medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, spiritual support and so forth.
Some mental illnesses are beyond help.
Unfortunately, this is an idea that I’ve come across in everyday people and some professionals alike (scary, I know). But the evidence is clear, with the right support any person living with a mental health condition can see meaningful progress. That meaningful progress, defined on an individual’s terms, can mean the difference between a life of suffering and a quality of life aligned with their personal goals.
If you’re living with a mental illness, you are not alone.
When we’re struggling in our darkest moments it’s hard to believe that there are many other people out there going through similar thoughts and feelings, but they are! 1 in 5 adults experience a mental illness in a given year, and that’s in the United States alone. Finding solidarity, and leaning on others with similar concerns, can be an incredibly important part of making it through.
Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.