We all have set ideas about mental illnesses––but what many people do not understand is that those who are afflicted with mental illnesses not only suffer from the symptoms of their disease, but also face the many stereotypes and prejudices that come with it. Below are a few common misconceptions that people with mental illnesses face, followed by evidence revealing the terrible picture that ignorance paints.
“Your illness isn’t real.”
False. There are too many people who don’t take mental health seriously. Unlike a physical injury, there is no place to put a Band-Aid or cast on a mental illness. All too often, these diseases are overlooked because there aren’t always visible symptoms. Or in other cases, when visible symptoms such as self harm or extreme mood changes do occur, they are labeled as attention seeking strategies. This makes a sufferer of any mental illness feel even more misunderstood and alone than they did to begin with.
“Saying you have a mental disorder is just a trend amongst teenagers.”
Wrong. According to The Kim Foundation, 26.2% of adults (eighteen and older) live with a diagnosable mental disorder. In accordance, 20 percent of youth ages thirteen to eighteen have a mental disorder. A large part of the reason so many teenagers are now being diagnosed with these illnesses lies in the pressures and standards on teenagers today compared to what they were for older generations. Not only this, but young people today are able to recognize that something may be wrong with all of the resources available in modern times. It’s not necessarily that there are more mentally ill teens now than there have been in the past, it’s that their illnesses are finally being recognized, diagnosed, and treated.
“But having a mental illness is poetic, right?”
Try again. Having a mental illness is the farthest thing from ‘poetic’. This mindset is possibly the most detrimental to those with mental disorders. However, it is an extremely common one. This is taking a disease that causes extreme pain, frustration, and distress and placing it in a romantic, almost fantasy-like light. The romanticization of serious and life-threatening symptoms such as self-harm and suicidal tendencies or ideations cause them to not be taken seriously because of unrealistic metaphors attached to them.
“It’s all in your head.”
You’re right. And what’s that super important organ that resides there? Oh yes, the brain. These illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances in the neural pathways of the organ that keeps you alive and functioning. But just because it’s actually in the head, doesn’t mean it’s imaginary. The chemical imbalances that cause these diseases are real and can be detected with the proper technology. Just like a bone fracture is detected with an x-ray, or a brain injury can be seen with an MRI, mental illness can be detected and diagnosed with the proper resources. There are psychiatrists and therapists who dedicate their entire careers to the treatment of mental illnesses, and getting into contact with a mental health professional is an important first step to identify and treat the illness. Just like a dermatologist or geneticist, these professionals help with specific illnesses and ailments.
When you see someone with a broken leg, you don’t just see the broken leg. It is attached to a living, breathing person. This is the same for mental diseases. A person with a mental illness is not defined by their disorder, it is simply an affliction they face. Just like a person with a broken arm or a concussion, it is not who they are, it is something that affects them. Just because a person has a mental illness does not mean they are not a person. These stereotypes and predisposed misconceptions about these disorders can cause just as much damage as the disorder itself.