Five mental health myths

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Cheryl Lythgoe, Matron at Benenden Health, discusses some of the common misconceptions around mental health ahead of ‘Time to Talk Day’ on Thursday, February 4.

Mental health problems continue to be a growing concern in the UK, with the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbating the situation.

However, there is still a lack of understanding and information out there surrounding our mental wellbeing. Ahead of ‘Time to Talk Day’, a day dedicated to getting people comfortable talking about mental health, we thought we’d debunk some of the more common myths.

1. You can’t recover from a mental health illness

This is incorrect; you can recover from a mental health illness just as you can recover from physical illness. Treatment and recovery are ongoing processes that happen over a period of time and the first step on the road to recovery is getting the help you need. With serious mental health problems, finding ways of managing your condition is important – getting better may not necessarily mean going back to how your life was before the illness, rather finding ways to take control of certain areas of your life.

2. Children don’t experience mental health illnesses

According to the Mental Health Foundation, approximately one in ten children and young people are affected by mental health problems. This can include depression, anxiety and conduct disorder – and can often be as a direct response to what is happening in their lives such as school stress or bullying.

There are a range of different people you can speak to if you feel your child may be suffering from a mental health condition – for example, a school nurse, school counsellor or an educational psychologist may be able to help. Alternatively, your GP will be able to advise and may refer your child for further support. If watching your children suffer is as distressing to you as it is for them, make sure you seek help too. Your GP, a mental health helpline and organisations like Young Minds for your children, or Benenden Health’s 24/7 mental health helpline, can all help you both navigate this difficult situation.

3. You can’t work with a mental health illness

People with mental health problems can be just as productive as other employees. Whilst starting work, staying in work or returning to work after a period of mental ill-health can be difficult, it’s not impossible, and there can be many benefits to working. For example, it may give an opportunity to make new friends, improve your financial security and give you a greater sense of identity and purpose.

If you’re unemployed and want to get back into work, the staff at your local Job Centre, your GP or your mental health worker or Citizen’s Advice can all give you advice on the subject.

4. Therapy and self-help are a waste of time – just take medication

Treatment for mental health problems can vary depending on the individual and could include therapy, medication or a combination of both.

Self-help therapy such as self-help books or computer counselling can have some advantages. For example, it’s convenient, cheap and you can do it in your own time. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a form of talking therapy which focuses on how you think about the things going on in your life – your thoughts, images, beliefs and attitudes – and how this impacts on the way you behave and deal with emotional problems. It then looks at how you can change any negative patterns of thinking or behaviour that may be causing you difficulties. In turn, this can change the way you feel.

If your clinician feels that you would benefit from medication, they will discuss and prescribe the most appropriate option for you.  Medication for the mind is just as important as medication for the body, if you were struggling with your heart, you would take your heart tablets so what’s the difference with your mental wellbeing?

5. You can’t help someone with a mental health illness.

There are lots of simple, everyday ways you can support someone who has a mental health problem. Listening to them talk and reminding the other person that you are there and care for them can make a big difference.

Myths aside, mental health is a completely normal part of our life. Whether mental illness is a secondary aspect of a traumatic event, or part of an individual’s genealogy, it is widely accepted and is nothing to be ashamed about.

Too many people in the UK and across the globe feel the stigma of mental illness, but with the right support, we can help people through their individual journeys.

Benenden Health offers high quality, private healthcare at the same affordable cost for everyone. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus speedy access to services such as physiotherapy and medical treatment.

For more information on mental health myths, go to:  https://www.benenden.co.uk/be-healthy/mind/mental-health-myths-part-1/.

Image Credits: Pixabay / Holger Langmaier https://pixabay.com/photos/man-mourning-despair-emotion-pain-2734073/ Pixabay Licence https://pixabay.com/service/license/.

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