Written by Amy Morin, Psychotherapist and author of ’13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do’
One in five Americans experience a mental health problem in any given year. Yet many people suffer with their symptoms in silence. The stigma that continues to surround mental health problems prevents individuals from getting the help they need.
It’s a common problem I’ve seen in my therapy office. People often waited years to seek help. Even though their symptoms were treatable, they were afraid to tell anyone about the symptoms they were experiencing.
Some of them feared a mental health diagnosis could affect their careers. Can I still teach if I have depression? If people know I have anxiety, will they assume my business is failing? Do I need to tell my boss I’m taking medication?
Others worried that they’d get labeled as crazy. Will other parents let their children come to my home if I go to counseling? If my neighbors see me in the waiting room, will they treat me different?
Many of them had legitimate concerns. Despite ongoing efforts to educate the public about mental health, many misconceptions remain. Before the stigma can be stopped, these five mental health myths need to be debunked:
1. You’re either mentally ill or mentally healthy.
Similar to the way a physically healthy person may still experience minor health issues-like bad knees or high cholesterol-a mentally healthy person may experience an emotional problem or two. Mental health is a continuum and people may fall anywhere on the spectrum.
Even if you are doing well, there’s a good chance you aren’t 100% mentally healthy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only about 17% of adults are in a state of optimal mental health.
2. Mental illness is a sign of weakness.
As someone who trains people to build mental strength, I sometimes receive backlash from individuals who claim the phrase “mental strength” somehow stigmatizes mental illness. Those comments come from people who automatically assume people with depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions are “mentally weak.”
Mental strength is not the same as mental health. Just like someone with diabetes could still be physically strong, someone with depression can still be mentally strong. Many people with mental health issues are incredibly mentally strong. Anyone can make choices to build mental strength, regardless of whether they have a mental health issue.