Despite its prevalence in the modern world, mental illness is still widely misunderstood. If this is to change, there must be a conscious and dedicated effort to educate society. Mental health courses such as the NCFE Level 3 Certificate in Understanding Mental Health are helping people to become a part of this change. If you want to work in mental health, but you don’t have the qualifications, Stonebridge Associated colleges can help you on your way.
Before you start studying, it is always helpful to do some research in order to make sure that the course is right for you. When tackling mental illness, the first thing on the agenda is obliterating negative stigmas. To start you off, we have collated 10 common misconceptions about mental health that professionals are trying to debunk.
1. You cannot recover from a mental illness
Recovering from a mental illness is very different to recovering from a physical illness. When you are suffering from a physical ailment, it is easy for you and the people around you to understand what is wrong and to observe the healing process. When it comes to mental health it is harder to see improvements in a person’s state. However this does not necessarily mean there haven’t been any. People can fully recover from even the most severe forms of mental illness. With the right care and a reliable support network, many individuals outgrow the need for medication and learn to employ holistic coping mechanisms to rebuild positive and fulfilling lives.
2. Mental illness is rare
One in four adults in the UK suffers from a mental illness and one in three families include a person with a mental health problem. Furthermore, children whose parents suffer from poor mental health are much more likely to experience problems themselves. These figures display that poor mental health is much more common than people allow themselves to believe. In most cases, mental illness is invisible to the naked eye. However, this does not make it any less real. Mental health and behavioural problems are actually considered to be the biggest driver of disability worldwide. However, due to lack of awareness and misunderstanding many people who suffer from mental illness go untreated.
3. People suffering from mental illnesses cannot function properly
If everyone suffering from mental health problems was dysfunctional, society would be a very different place. You might not know it, but some of your closest friends, colleagues or family members may be suffering some sort of mental illness. Often, people with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. They get out of bed in the morning and go to work, they maintain romantic relationships and they look after children. However, this is not to say that they do not suffer. For people in this situation, it can take all of their will power and energy to maintain the facade of normality.
4. People who are mentally ill are violent and unpredictable
If some forms of mental illness remain untreated, certain sufferers can display violent or unpredictable behaviour. However, this is in no way true of mentally ill people in general. The vast majority of mentally ill people are no more likely to be violent than any other member of society. In fact, due to limited societal understanding, it is far more probable that a mentally ill person would become the victim of a violent or unpredictable attack. In cases where a mentally ill person has caused a disturbance, this is often the result of the pressure and discrimination they face as a mentally ill person, rather than the result of the mental illness itself.
5. All mental health disorders are genetic
Mental health is a vast and complicated field which even the best scientists struggle to understand. Whilst it has been proved that illnesses such as bipolar, depression and schizophrenia all have a genetic contribution, it would be wrong to assume this was the sole cause of the problem. Studies have been carried out within families, often focusing specifically on identical twins. Interestingly, in many cases only one of the twins suffers from the illness in question. Equally, some people have no family history of mental illness, yet they still find themselves being diagnosed. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this evidence is that mental illness spans from a variety of sources.
6. Mental illness is a sign of weakness
Mental illness has nothing to do with being weak or lacking resilience. Changes in brain function or chemistry are often the root of mental illnesses and these things are completely beyond a person’s control. People who suffer from illnesses like bipolar or depression have to try much harder to make it through their daily routines. If anything, the fact that they persist in spite of this, displays a level of strength and hardiness superior to those with no relatable experience of mental illness. Furthermore, it has been suggested that people who have suffered from a mental illness are more equipped to deal with stress because they have developed effective coping mechanisms.
7. Some people are immune to mental health problems
If there is a prevalent history of mental health problems in your family, or you live in challenging circumstances, you are probably more likely to suffer from a mental illness. However, this is not to say that the rest of the general population are immune. Anyone can fall victim to mental health issues. Problems often arise after a difficult or upsetting life event, such as bereavement, injury or a period of unemployment. Depending on your personality and your method of thinking, these events may be manageable or they may be a catalyst for further problems. In absence of the proper support, one small thing can snowball into a fully-fledged mental illness.
8. Mental health is not as important as physical health
Contrary to popular belief mental health and physical health are very closely linked. On average, people with severe mental health issues die 20 years earlier than the rest of the population. Research has suggested a number of reasons why this might be. The first is that people with mental illnesses can suffer health complications as a result of their medication. The second reason is that people with severe mental illnesses are less likely to regularly monitor their health. Thirdly, when something is physically wrong, people are often misdiagnosed as mental and physical symptoms can overlap; and finally, it has been argued that mentally ill people are more likely to make poor diet and lifestyle choices.
9. You can just ‘snap out of it’
Those who do not understand the pain of mental illness often find it difficult to understand. As a result of this, comments like ‘cheer up’ or snap out of it’ are often directed towards people suffering from disorders such as depression or addiction. However, if it was that easy, people would have done it already. Mental illness is a serious and deeply rooted issue which takes time and energy to recover from. Due to the nature of the affliction, sufferers usually have to comprise a number of separate treatments including things such as: medication, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), counselling or even meditation.
10. You are alone
People who suffer from mental illnesses are often the people who need comfort and support the most. However, due to the nature of mental illness and the stigmas associated with it, sufferers are often the people left feeling the most isolated. As society works to raise awareness of mental health problems and works towards providing a larger support network, we all must do what we can to assist. Charities like Mind, Rethink and Think Ahead are already working hard to offer care and support to mentally ill people. They are also working to educate professionals and the public about how best to help individuals who are suffering.