Even today, the term “mental health” is an elusive and stigmatized concept in Pakistan. Not only do people consider a mental health issue to be a myth altogether, they don’t believe in addressing it either. This is because of the misconceptions that shroud the reality of mental illness. It is imperative that these misconceptions be sorted out and that such a condition should be taken in all seriousness. Here are the top 10 myths about mental illness, and the truth behind them that people are unaware of.
Mental Health Patients are Unpredictable and Dangerous
Watching too many thrillers and horror movies has made us think that people who are violent are often mentally unstable. It is also often used as a way of justifying someone’s actions when no other explanation can be found. On the contrary, it is the other way round in the real world. People with mental illnesses are generally often victimized and treated as social outcasts. However, there are no statistics that show that acts of violence or crimes have a direct connection with mental health.
Psychiatrists are the Only Answer to Mental Health Problems
It is true that psychiatrists are trained professionals and they help out their patients as part of their job. However, the answer to a mental health issue may lie anywhere in anything. This could be the support of loved ones, taking a trip to a new place, reading a book, meditation, exercise, or even having a good meal. It all depends on what the issue is and the degree of seriousness to which it has reached.
Children Can’t Have Serious Mental Issues
It is much harder to detect serious mental health issues in children when they are young. However, children have been diagnosed with various conditions such as autism and attention deficit disorder (ADHD). It is a common misconception that children with rapid shifts in mood swings and behavior are like that because of parenting. Though parents would prefer the assumption to be true in this case, they often overlook the fact that their child might actually be suffering from something serious that needs to be treated since it will not go away on its own.
People with Mental Conditions are Unable to Perform Well
It is believed that since these people “lack” mentally, they will not be able to perform well professionally. Inversely, there are many people with serious mental illnesses who are great at what they do. There are often people who are more efficient and productive at their jobs since it helps them take their mind off of their mental condition.
People with Mental Conditions are Less Intelligent
Mental illness is often treated as a medical disease whereby the brain is so messed up that it cannot function properly. However, sometimes the mental differences can be beneficial for the patients. For instance, an autistic person may be extremely sharp at math or logical problem solving. The misconception lies when these conditions are referred to as “mental in capabilities”.
Depression is Not Really a Condition That One Can’t Snap Out of
Observers think that depression is a state in which a person chooses to go. However, depression is a serious clinical term which may have a severe impact on how your mind works. In some cases, it is even genetic, and strong measures need to be taken to treat it. According to research, “it results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function”.
People with Mental Problems are Socially Awkward
There are certain cases where it is difficult for those with mental problems to be socially comfortable. However, there are many cases where people going through major medical conditions are able to hide them so well that others don’t even notice it sometimes. In fact, being socially active is also a method of treatment for some.
Seeing a Psychiatrist Makes One Mentally Insane
Going to see the shrink is an act that is frowned upon in the Pakistani society. In most parts, it is completely unheard of, and in others it is a societal taboo. That is because people are unable to comprehend the fact that a psychiatrist is a professional and may be able to help someone more than friends or family might be capable of.
Electro-convulsive Therapy is Torture
ECT, or “Shock therapy” is believed to be extremely barbaric and rough. It is also believed to be for those who have little hope of recovery and who may eventually end up in an asylum. However, ECT is actually a highly effective treatment to help victims of severe depression when medication does not work.
People with a Mental Illness are Not Normal
People with a mental illness may not be normal in the broad sense of the word. However, they often live normal lives and have the same feelings as normal people. Their mental illness is as abnormal as any physical illness would be, depending on the degree and treatment time. One must not either believe that a person has no mental problem at all, or that he/she is completely insane and incurable.
All in all, in order to address the issues, it is important to first know what they are and how real they can be. Mental illness is real, and the best way to do something about it is to start by believing that it is real.