In our society today, there is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature of mental health problems. In some occasions, people ascribe the cause of these mental health conditions to spiritual forces or even blame the victim for their own issues. Consequently, there is a lot of stigma around mental health issues and this prevents individuals from seeking help when needed.
The following are some of the commonly held false beliefs about mental health.
When you are depressed, you just being weak, you need to cheer yourself up and get on with life.
This is a commonly held belief about depression. Many feel that people who suffer from depression should be able to shake it off. However, we know that depression is a medical condition which results from the abnormal functioning of the brain. It is not just an emotion and sufferers cannot just shake themselves out of it. They need to be treated like we treat individuals with other medical conditions.
Africans are tough and don’t suffer from depression.
All humans are the same, and just as the brain has the ability to function at very high levels in any person, it also has the ability to suffer from a mental illness like depression. It is wrong to think that being African confers protection against depression or other mental conditions.
Mental illnesses are the result of spiritual attacks.
Humans, at different times in history, have believed that mental conditions are caused by unseen spiritual forces. Unfortunately, today, some individuals still hold these kinds of beliefs, which means when a family member or friend suffers from a mental health condition, they are taken to a spiritual home rather than a health centre. This further increases the likelihood that the condition would get worse and result in bad outcomes.
Depression is caused by life’s challenges.
Although the problem of depression can be made worse or more noticeable by difficult circumstances, it is not solely caused these. There are individuals who suffer from depression or other mental health problems who have not had significant adverse life events and there are those who have suffered significant adverse life events who have not developed depression as a mental illness. The bottom line is that depression can occur in anyone.
All mentally ill individuals are violent.
Although aggression could be a symptom of some mental conditions, it is not true that everyone suffering from a mental condition is violent and should be avoided. The majority of people with mental illness pose no threat to other people.
Correcting the misconceptions
Although mental health conditions are quite common in our society, there is still a lot of stigma associated with these conditions. Continuously raising awareness about these issues will help break the stigma and help individuals to seek appropriate treatment for their mental health challenges.