We’re sure you’ve heard them all before:
‘People with mental health problems are weak’
‘Only teenage girls self-harm’
‘Mums with postnatal depression don’t love their babies’
These statements are simply not true and can really impact people who are struggling with these conditions. The stigma left by such myths means people find it more difficult to open up, talk about their problems and access appropriate treatment.
The Healthy Worker is going to help debunk the five most common misconceptions of mental health and help remove the stigma once and for all:
You can never recover
Yes, there is no medication which provides instant and lasting effects, as you might with a headache but research shows that anywhere from 25% to 65% of people with a serious mental illness make a recovery.
However most mental health condition are mild to moderate and the vast majority with the more common mental health concerns return to a fully functioning life.
Yes, some people may experience life-lasting conditions, but with the right support and use of health resources, people with mental health conditions can live a fulfilling and happy life.
People with a mental illness can’t work or struggle to hold down a job
If someone does suffer with severe mental health problems, it can affect their ability to work and those with mental health problems have a lower rate of employment than those without. In 2016, the employment rate was 42.9% for those with a mental health condition as their primary long term conditions, compared to 74% for the population overall.
However, many do still work and manage their mental health with supportive management and colleagues. The key is finding a sustainable level of decision making, responsibilities and working hours. This may vary over the years but with good liaison with your employer, making adjustments for long term conditions is often possible. Work in itself can be extremely positive and helpful for those who find that sustainable level.
People with anxiety/depression are weak
Anxiety and depression can stem from feelings of worry, fear or tension but that doesn’t mean to say that mental health sufferers are weak or “feeble”.
Everybody gets anxious – politicians get anxious before a debate, sports people get nervous before a competition, everybody feels these feelings at some point or another, but that doesn’t mean to say that person is weak.
In contrast the reason why these feeling arise can be because you care, and depression as a condition has been known as ‘a curse of the strong’. If someone cares little about what they do and the standards they achieve then nothing bothers them too much. However, for those who care and have invested energy into something they are passionate about, the risks are higher when there are limitations beyond their control.
There are other risk factors for anxiety and depression too but none of these suggest people who experience these problems will always do so, or that they are somehow inherently weak.
Successful people don’t have mental health issues
It’s important to know that mental health can affect anyone, anywhere, given the right circumstances. Yes, that’s includes you!
Being thought of as successful does not make you immune to low self-esteem, anxiety etc. Indeed anxiety can fuel high performance, at least for a while. Equally material possessions don’t make you happy, certainly in the medium to long term. Happiness is not found from external goods. Whether somebody has lots of money or a big house doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to suffer like anybody else.
There are also times when mental health conditions provide something in return. Stephen Fry, for example, has been very open about his mental health issues and how they have provided some of his most creative times. Others with OCD for example can be highly valued for their structures and organisational ability. However, any strength that is over or under done can also become an area for improvement, so it’s back to keeping things on a sustainable basis.
Depression is a personality flaw
If somebody has diabetes or a broken leg, would you judge them negatively? Of course not.
Depression can equally be caused by a chemical imbalance which can impact anybody. There’s isn’t always a cause for depression, although episodes can be triggered by events, they equally can be part of the natural ebbs and flows of life.
Anti-depressants are not necessarily the solution for everyone. They can be helpful often as part of a treatment plan but often talking therapies can provide longer lasting benefits and provide insights which medication alone just can’t achieve!
Interested in finding out about we can help your business? The Healthy Worker is dedicated to developing Wellbeing Champions in the workplace. Have you trained yours? Contact us today for more details on 01684 231461.