May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949. Nearly 44 million American adults and millions of children experience mental health conditions each year, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress. This week, I thought I would share a few myths vs. facts about mental health.
Myth: Mental health issues can’t affect me.
Mental health issues can affect anyone. Based on information from 2020, about:
One in 5 American adults experienced a mental health condition in a given year
One in 6 young people have experienced a major depressive episode
One in 20 Americans have lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
Additionally, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, it was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24. Suicide has accounted for the loss of more than 45,979 American lives in 2020, nearly double the number of lives lost to homicide.
Myth: Mental health issues are a result of personality weakness or character flaws, and people just need to “snap out of it”.
Fact: Mental health conditions have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and it is not something you can just snap out of. Many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health conditions, including:
Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
Family history of mental health conditions
People with mental health conditions can get better and many seek recovery support.
Myth: Therapy and self-help are just a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?
Fact: Treatment for mental health conditions varies depending on the particular problem and the individual, and could include medication, therapy, or both. Most people do best when they are actively involved in therapy and work with a support system during the healing and recovery process, in addition to their medication treatment.
Myth: There is nothing I can do for a person with a mental health issue.
Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference for people with mental health issues. In 2020, only 20% of adults received any mental health treatment in the past year, which included 10% who received counseling or therapy from a professional. Friends and family can help by doing any or all of the following:
Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help
Encouraging them to seek help and helping them find and access mental health services
Helping them learn self-care and coping techniques
Learning and sharing facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn’t true
Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else
Refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as “crazy”.
Myth: Mental health conditions cannot be prevented.
Fact: Prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders focuses on addressing known risk factors, such as exposure to trauma, that can affect the chances that children, youth, and young adults will develop mental health conditions. Recent evidence indicates exposure to social media during childhood and adolescence increases the risk of developing mental health conditions. Promoting the social and emotional well-being of our fellow human beings leads to:
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor