Consults with Trees
Some things I've been seeing on and off over the past week have inspired me to do something of a public service announcement regarding mental health. For better or worse, the dialogues surrounding mental health in many places are fraught with counterproductive stigmas and misconceptions. Here's a few thoughts to get us to reconsider our approach to mental health (adapted from The 5 Most Common Misconceptions About Mental Illness and https://lifehacker.com/the-misconceptions-about-mental-illness-we-need-to-unle-1711647132):
- Mental health is a continuum. Mental health is little different from physical health in this regard. We consider it normal to come down with a cold roughly once a year or so, and we need to consider it normal to have an emotional problem once a year or so too. It happens to all of us, and roughly 1 in 5 people are estimated to experience some sort of diagnosable mental health problem annually.
- Mental health problems do not mean someone is weak. Too often we perceive someone with clinical depression or anxiety as "weak" because of their condition. Again, we can draw parallels to physical health - we wouldn't say someone who is lactose intolerant is weak, would we? We shouldn't do this for mental health problems either.
- People with mental health problems are more frequently victims of violence than perpetrators. When violent crimes are reported by the media, it's almost inevitable to see someone claiming the perpetrator must have been mentally ill and that this is what caused their behavior. This perpetuates the unwarranted stigma that mental health problems make people violent.
- People can't just "snap out" of mental health problems. Mental health problems are debilitating precisely because a person can't just "snap out of it," yet that's often what people suffering from these problems are told. Telling people with mental health problems to just "get over it" is not only unhelpful, but can be damaging and discourage them from getting the help they need.
- Mental health problems are treatable. While not all mental health problems are curable, most of them are treatable. Complete recovery is often a possibility, though it takes time and is not a linear path. There will be steps forwards, backwards, and sideways. But it is definitely not a waste of time, and can give a person good self-care tools to cultivate resilience to future stresses.