When you feel sick you go to a doctor, right? But what do you do when are feeling ‘mentally unwell’? With the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008) estimating 45% of Australians will experience a mental health condition in their life time and only 35% of those suffering access treatment. This issue was recently brought to my attention after friends of mine began to share photos of themselves and information about the high suicide rates in men under 45 with #ITSOKAYTOTALK. I really believe this is a great initiative to encourage dialogue between people about mental health, as often people are too scared to talk about it. In my life I have had exposure to a variety of mental illnesses and how it affects people in so many different ways. Mental health should be considered as important as physical health and conditions such as depression and anxiety should be viewed in a similar light as any other physical health condition.
It is often difficult for people talk about their mental health, many feel judged as a result of the stigma associated with mental disorders. This comes around because of many misconceptions about mental illness so here are some common mental health myths or so called facts I would like to debunk
- Mental illnesses are incurable.
This is totally wrong, just like the common cold you can be cured. The treatments associated with mental illness may be different and take longer than a course of antibiotics but it does not mean they are incurable.
- People with mental illnesses can ‘snap out of it’.
Again totally wrong, this perception is often a view about individuals with depression. Depression is not a personal weakness or a character flaw, it is a condition caused by many different factors such as genetic, biological, social and environmental.
- Taking anti-depressants is a cop-out.
No way! Many of these illnesses are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, by taking these drugs it can fix this imbalance and help to manage their condition.
- I can do nothing to help someone suffering from mental illness.
Absolutely wrong! The best thing for someone suffering from a mental illness is to have a strong support network. Talk to them, let them know you are there to listen and support them!
I’m not Neil Armstrong but I hope it this is a step in the right direction in order to one day make a giant leap in combatting mental illness stigma. I would like to encourage you to keep an eye on your friends and family. For further information about mental health check out the following links.
University of Sydney Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
The Black Dog Institute
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0) Canberra: ABS.
Government of Western Australia: Mental Health Commission: http://www.mentalhealth.wa.gov.au/mental_illness_and_health/Myths_mental_illness.aspx