Happy Mental Health Awareness Month! I’m taking a page out of the MythBusters TV show and am about to drop some knowledge on you to “uncover the truth behind popular myths and legends” as it relates to mental health. I don’t take this matter lightly and, both fortunately and unfortunately, public mental health issues are becoming more and more prevalent. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what to make of it all. So here are my top three favorite myths about mental health and the real truths behind them!
Mental illness is just mental weakness
Truth – some of the most mentally tough people suffer from mental health issues. In a recent half second of fame, I competed in a podcast determining sports mental toughness GOAT’s. I selected Tiger Woods. His consistency on the golf course through much of his career despite personal issues was unparalleled. Sadly, we’ve been able to spectate his difficulties with mental health and the challenge that they can cause folks. Mental illness has a genetic component and a social component. It’s quite similar to the way that someone who smokes a pack a day might never get lung cancer while someone who has never smoked might get lung cancer. We have a genetic predisposition for things that have a threshold before they’re “turned on”. Mental health issues have nothing to do with being strong or weak. Which leads me to myth 2!
People just need to toughen up, everyone has bad days
Truth – yes, everyone has bad days. But what we need to understand is that there’s a difference between being nervous and Anxiety. There’s a difference between feeling sad and Depression. One or two bad days is “normal” while folks suffering from mental health experience prolonged, disruptive bouts of symptoms they just can’t shake. Mental health is a health concern just like any other that needs to be intentionally addressed. This might be through exercise, social support, therapy, or medication. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending things are find is a wonderful way to exacerbate the issues in an explosive way.
Talking about your problems means you’re too weak to handle them on your own
Truth – years and years and years and years of scientific research supportss the idea that verbal processing of information changes how information is stored. So when we talk about what is going on, even if we don’t end with a solution, we change how information is processed and stored in the brain allowing us to manage it a lot better. Additionally, if your car is making a funny noise, would you just tell your spouse to shut up and not talk about it? That talking about it makes the problem worse and it’ll go away on its own? That the car just needs to toughen up? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Talking about things helps us find solutions and make small changes that can help us feel a lot better and function so much easier.
While stigma is decreasing, these myths still frequently rule common thinking. Talking helps. Whether you confide in at trusted friend, a stranger at the airport, or a trained professional, speaking helps process. And processing helps us function more productively. Find your person. Share your thoughts. I’m certain it’ll feel better. If you or someone you know is in acute crisis, don’t wait. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741
Dr. Day is a licensed clinical psychologist. She is an Ohio native who completed her Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Health and Sport Studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio while competing on the Varsity Swimming and Diving team as a diver. She then went on to earn a Master's degree in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology followed by a Master's degree and later a Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University New England in Keene, NH.
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