This post isn’t only intended as an insight for those outside of the mental health community with misinformed assumptions of mental illness, but it’s also a gentle reminder to those recovering and surviving, that we don’t always get it right too!
1. “Mental Health is synonymous with Depression.”
Depression is a normal emotion. Breakdown of a marriage, death of a loved one, loss of a job. Clinical depression is a diagnosed illness and just one of many such diagnosis’. Not all mentally ill people are or get depressed.
2. “Being a survivor makes you an expert.”
There’s been times where even I’ve thought I had more knowledge on a subject than I did but without meaning to offend anyone, having a spell of depression, recovering then setting up instagram pages full of self love quotes prophet-ising yourself with the ability to cure all because you’ve “been there” is pretty much the same as someone surviving broken bones from a car crash then going on to think they can cure the common cold. It’s a nice sentiment but don’t get disheartened by realising there’s another million and one ways people out their work towards recovery.
3. “The more medication, the more ill the person.”
Medication seekers are a thing but I learnt this one whilst in hospital. One of the girls jibed about a common anti-psychotic most patients in there had to take,”You do realise that’s an antihistamine.” The medication one takes does not validate or invalidate the extremities of a persons illness. Some extremely unwell people get on fine with a lower dose of a simple medication. Some acutely troubled patients might end up needing multiple concoctions. Medication does not reflect how ill or well a person is.
4. “All mentally ill people are suicidal & all suicidal people are mentally ill.”
NOT THE CASE
This one goes without much explanation. Some ‘usually’ well people sadly just snap and need to escape. Most manic type bipolar sufferers I know, are not suicidal at all.
5. “Exercise, drink water, get sunlight, practise self affirmations and you’ll be fine!”
Just no. I’d love that to be the case. It might be for some and that’s great if it is but please please please, although sometimes helpful, don’t think it’s a magical cure.
6. “If they drink and use drugs it’s their own fault.”
THE SADDEST MISUNDERSTANDING
Sadly, substance abuse and mental illness often go hand in hand. There’s a lot of cases where substance misuse obviously leads to poor mental health but even more often substance misuse is a common coping mechanism, an escape, a way to forget, past trauma which has been the initial creator of the illness in the first place.
7. “It’s an excuse.”
I bloody wish it was! I’d have the perfect life if I’d never had to take responsibility for my actions whether related to my illness or not. As I’ve previously mentioned however, it can sometimes be used as an explanation.
8. “Self harm is a form of attention seeking.”
OK, I’m still personally stumped on this one. As a young girl who self harmed and didn’t cover my scars, the way I saw it at the time was “Look what you’re doing to me” – I can’t show you what’s going off in my head so if I show you that pain in a physical way, maybe you’ll understand and stop hurting me. As an adult who still regularly self harms, keeps it well hidden and never tells anyone when I have, I experience it more as an emotional release, a way of pouring badness out of me as well as a form of self punishment. I know it won’t be a popular opinion within the mental health community and I might get shot down in flames but I do still sometimes see self harm as a cry for help – but I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
9 “If they’re actually mentally ill they can’t/shouldn’t…”
WHERE DID YOU SAY YOU GOT YOUR DEGREE IN PSYCHIATRY?
…go out in public. Smile. Laugh. Have friends. Go shopping. Get out of bed. Take selfies. Watch films. And the list goes on. Sometimes illness does prevent a person from doing these things but other times, just because they manage to partake in activities, it doesn’t mean they’re cured or no longer ill, just that good days happen and everyone has different motivations.
10 “Mental Health doesn’t affect me.”
Bulllllllllllshiiiiiiiiiiit. I’m thinking of that Mark Twain quote about not arguing with fools as onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference and that they will beat you with experience. Simply put, saying you don’t have mental health is like saying you don’t have an immune system or bones or a brain. (the latter would make sense coming from some.) We all have to take responsibility in looking after our mind and our behaviours. Forgetfulness, anger, confusion, sexual dysfunciton, happiness, being thoughtful, acting maliciously, kindness, understanding – these are all parts of your health, your mental health and I feel like an absolute idiot that I’ve had to explain that with certain people in mind.
Mental Illness might not, but Mental Health certainly affects everyone.