10 mental health misconceptions: Common myths about mental wellbeing
Everybody struggles with their mental health from time to time. Whether you’ve been feeling low just recently or you’ve had the same recurring problem for a while, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you get back to being ‘you’ again.
Because you can’t always see the symptoms of mental health problems, it’s difficult to understand how they affect the day-to-day life of someone who is struggling with them. The lack of awareness and common stigmas surrounding mental health have led to a number of misconceptions about who can benefit from therapy and what mental wellbeing really means.
We’ve put together this list of mental health myths that could stand in the way of someone seeking help to clear up the confusion and set the record straight.
Myth #1 “Mental health problems are a sign of weakness”
There is a big difference between mental strength and mental health. In fact, somebody going through depression is often showing incredible mental strength to get through the day while experiencing a lack of clarity, tiredness, sleep deprivation and negative thoughts.
Implying that someone is ‘mentally weak’ when they are finding it difficult to cope with their mental health makes as much sense as calling someone with asthma lazy, or saying someone is a ‘fussy eater’ because they have a food allergy.
To battle each day takes extraordinary strength that may not show on the outside. Seeking professional help is the best way to work through the issues you’re facing with someone who understands.
Myth #2 “Mental health only affects certain people”
There can be a number of things that lead to problems with your mental wellbeing, or low mood and negative thoughts can spring from nowhere. Either way, nobody is immune to mental health issues, just as nobody is immune to physical illnesses or injuries.
The common causes and symptoms of mental health problems can result in those struggling with them being defined as a certain ‘type’ of person.
This misconception comes from the difficulties in spotting the effects of mental health issues and the fact that they are often attributed to someone just ‘having a bad day’. In the UK, 1 in 4 people experience a mental health problem each year, including many who are active, sociable and successful in their career.
Myth #3 “Character flaws cause mental health problems”
It is incorrect but sadly all-too-common presumption that somebody’s mental health problems are the result of ‘character flaws’, be it weakness, laziness, aggression or shyness. These assessments do not only heighten the stigma that still surrounds mental health, but can amplify the negative thoughts and feelings they are already experiencing.
The fact is mental health has nothing to do with these perceived character flaws, and that many factors can contribute to these issues, including:
Biological factors, such as genetics, physical illness, injury, or differences in brain chemistry
Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
A family history of mental health problems
It is not a case of people not ‘trying hard enough’ to snap out of the problems they are enduring. Many people need help to get better, and CBT techniques and speaking to a professional therapist can provide this.
Myth #4 “People with mental health problems usually don’t have any friends”
Not everyone has lots of close friends, but this is no reason to suggest that they have a mental health condition, or to look down on them in any way.
While people struggling with their mental health may find it difficult to socialise, others are naturally more extroverted and can meet friends, go to parties, and speak in public without their personal challenges being noticed.
Part of the reason that this misconception exists is that it can be difficult to open up entirely to friends. So you may know someone who is struggling with their mental health without even realising it.
Myth #5 “People with mental health conditions can’t work”
One of the most common misconceptions of mental health is that it stops you being able to hold down a job.
The majority of people who are suffering from their mental health are more than capable of carrying out regular work and can be just as productive as their colleagues.
Never assume that because you can work, you don’t need help. Speaking to a professional about the issues you’re facing can help you lead a more balanced life and stay in tune with your mental wellbeing.
Myth #6 “You can’t prevent mental health problems”
It’s true that not all mental health problems are preventable when they are a result of genetics or traumatic life experiences, for example. But everybody can take small steps to improve their mental health and develop positive habits such as healthy eating, regular exercise, socialising, and getting a good night's sleep.
It’s not always practical to keep up a healthy routine 100% of the time. The key to preventing mental ill health from escalating is to identify how you are feeling and speak to a professional therapist when you’re finding things difficult to cope with.
Myth #7 “My problems aren’t important enough for therapy”
Many people live with a mental health issue for years before they feel like they can seek help from a professional. CBT-based talking therapies are not limited to conditions like depression and anxiety – they can help with almost anything that affects your mental wellbeing, from common phobias and lack of sleep, to relationship breakdowns, impact of a long term health condition and stress at work.
By assuming your problems are not big or important enough for a professional to bother with, you could be subjecting yourself to ongoing and unnecessary suffering.
Myth #8 “You can’t help a friend or family member with a mental health problem”
Understanding the way someone else is feeling isn’t easy, especially when they are struggling with their mental health. And while it’s hard to know where to begin or offer helpful advice, just being there in their time of need can make a massive difference.
You don’t have to be a therapist. Simple things like listening, keeping in touch, offering support and accepting them for who they are can do more than you might think.
Myth #9 “Treatment is scary and invasive”
It's perfectly understandable to be nervous about opening up about your problems, even to a therapist. However, professionals will empathise with this and work with you to unpack your thoughts and feelings one step at a time.
If you’re not ready to speak in person, there are phone and online text-based therapies available if you feel more comfortable getting the help you need from your own home, or anywhere you’d be more relaxed.
Myth #10 “Therapy will end up costing a fortune”
The value of your mental wellbeing outweighs any price tag. However, the expense of private care isn’t viable for many of us.
Thanks to the NHS, this doesn’t have to stop you from getting the professional support you are entitled to. Free services including Therapy For You give you unimpeded access to qualified therapists in-person, over the phone and online.
Overcome the barriers to therapy and get the old you back
We hope we’ve cleared up any of the myths and misconceptions that may have been stopping you from seeking the help you need and deserve.
If you are 16 or over and live in Colchester & Tendring, or 18 and over and live in Southend, Castle Point & Rochford, our wide range of CBT-based therapies can help you start your journey to feeling better.
Find the right therapy here, or contact your local service below:
Colchester & Tendring: 01206 334 001
Southend, Castle Point & Rochford: 01268 739 128