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Debunking myths about mental health

Anna Dauhan
Anna Dauhan

Clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center with seven years of experience

Jakarta | Fri, March 16, 2018 | 11:14 am
Debunking myths about mental health

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), good health is not only the absence of disease or disorder, but the optimum condition that allows a person to realize his/her potential, cope with the normal stresses of life and live a productive life. (Shutterstock/File)

Mental health is defined as one’s state of wellbeing, and includes emotional, psychological and social welfare. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), good health is not only the absence of disease or disorder, but the optimum condition that allows a person to realize his/her potential, cope with the normal stresses of life and live a productive life. It influences how someone feels, thinks and acts. It affects how someone relates to other people, solves problems and makes choices in life.

Unfortunately, many people often ignore their mental wellbeing and don’t take serious consideration of symptoms of mental health issues when they appear. The myths surrounding mental health problems also seem to contribute to one's decision to take action and seek help when their psychological wellbeing is in jeopardy.

There are many myths about mental health disorders. Here are some of the most common and the antidotes to those perspectives:

Mental health problems will not affect me or my loved ones

In America, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in young people, with one in ten experiencing a period of major depression. According to WHO data from 2016, 35 million people suffer from depression, 60 million from bipolar disorder and 21 million from schizophrenia.

These figures detail severe and pathological disorders that are known and reported, but do not include less severe, but still disabling, conditions such as chronic stress, problems controlling one’s emotions and anger, abusive behavior or marital distress. Considering the prevalence of mental health issues, there is a strong likelihood such conditions will affect someone we know, including ourselves or our significant others.

Mental health issues are caused by character flaws

Many people believe that individuals who suffer from mental health issues have weak personalities, and should, therefore, be able to overcome their problems using sheer willpower and determination.

There are in fact many factors that contribute to mental health problems, such as a person’s biological disposition, a family history of mental illness and life experiences. Getting the right help and early intervention leads to higher rates of recovery. 

People who seek mental health help are crazy

Mental health issues appear on a spectrum, ranging from very mild to severe or pathological conditions. A person does not have to wait until a problem becomes severe to gain benefits from seeking help.

Mental health providers offer services to optimize people’s happiness and wellbeing, as well as to deal with pathological problems and issues. Intervention may vary from discussing strategies to improve your ability to handle job-related stress, to improving your relationship with loved ones, to structured and specific plans to cope with specific mental disorders.

Again, the earlier a person seeks help, the easier the road to full recovery will be.

Psychotherapy and counseling will not help

There are various forms of treatment for mental health problems, including psychotherapy (talking therapy or expressive therapy such as art, movement or play therapy), medication and creating an effective support system for the individual.

The effectiveness of the intervention depends on many factors such as adherence to the treatment plan, the complexity of the problem, including the severity of the diagnosis, the nature of the problem and the person’s circumstances. 

Studies have demonstrated that evidence-based psychotherapy methods have shown long-term benefits for the wellbeing of clients, but they do take time. Curing mental health issues often requires more time than taking a pill to get rid of a migraine, as various and complex factors are intertwined with the onset of the symptoms.   

Children do not suffer from mental health issues

Mental health issues affect people of all ages. Fifty percent of cases of mental illness start by age 14, and three-quarters of the cases show symptoms by age 24.

Children may show early signs of distress in the form of difficulties coping with the demands of school, misbehavior, or regressing into much younger behavior. These symptoms, as well as other unusual behavior, need to be recognized to prevent one’s mental wellbeing from spiraling downward.

When is the best time to seek professional help?

There are several early warning signs that should not be ignored to ensure one maintains their optimum mental wellbeing. The symptoms, which should be followed up with a mental health professional for further assessment, include pulling away from people and usual activities, suffering from low energy, apathy and low mood most of the time, feeling numb or hopeless or like nothing matters, consuming alcohol, drugs or other substances more than usual, having unexplained pain, feeling anxious or extreme fear toward something harmless, feeling unusually confused, forgetful, angry or scared, experiencing mood swings that cause problems in relationships, hearing or seeing things that do not actually exist, volatile outbursts of emotion leading to aggressive behavior and an inability to perform daily tasks. 

If you want to improve the quality of your relationships with loved ones (family, friends, spouse or children), cope better with stress (job related or otherwise), assess your child’s readiness for school, assess your child’s development and special needs, evaluate your personality profile, visit your nearest wellbeing or mental health center to discuss the matter with a professional.

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The writer is a clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center with seven years of experience. She works with couples and individuals, utilizing an integrative approach in counseling and psychotherapy. She graduated from the University of Indonesia and holds a master’s degree in transpersonal psychology from the University of Northampton in the United Kingdom. She is also a Jungian sandplay therapy practitioner under supervision, facilitating mainly adults to process their issues through non-verbal techniques.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

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