One of the biggest challenges when it comes to mental health is not the increasing number of people who are suffering from depression or the suicide rate, but the taboo that surrounds it.
One-fifth of South Africans will experience depression once in their lifetime. However, findings have revealed that 75% of people who have experienced mental health disorders do not seek professional help. So, what are we getting wrong when it comes to dealing with mental health? Here are a few common myths surrounding mental health.
Mental illness is not caused by a personal weakness
A common myth that persists when it comes to mental health illness is that it is a character flaw or a sign of weakness. Not only is this false, but it can also prevent people from seeking help. Mental health illnesses are caused by a complex interplay of social, environmental, genetic and biological factors. It takes a lot of strength for someone to reach out and get help.
It is not attention seeking or ‘faking it’
The taboo around mental health illnesses has resulted in people suffering in silence. Furthermore, the notion that they are faking it or doing it for attention can be the equivalent of victim-blaming. As a result, every 40 seconds, someone commits suicide. No one chooses to suffer from a mental health illness and it can affect anyone.
Smiling depression is a real mental health illness
Depression affects people differently and is currently the leading disability worldwide. Most people associate depression with someone being in a constant state of sadness, but there is smiling depression which sees someone masking the fact that they have depression. They may hold down a job, smile and appear joyful to appear to be strong when they are falling apart behind closed doors.
Mental health illnesses can affect anyone
Mental health illnesses do not have a type. It can affect anyone and everyone, young and old. Even if it appears that someone is successful, they can still be affected. However, the taboo surrounding this causes many people to suffer in silence. Untreated mental health illnesses are also costly, costing the South African economy R35 billion in lost work days every year.
Seeking help does not mean there is something wrong with you
The taboo that mental health illnesses means that you are insane or that there is a problem with you, therefore, you need to be removed from society is one that still plagues many communities.
The reality is that suffering from a mental health illness is almost the equivalent of someone who suffers from cancer or diabetes - with the right treatment it can be treated. Seeking medical help can help improve the situation and also help people lead healthy lives.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to dispelling the taboos that surround mental health, but working towards understanding it can help save a life.