Health

Mental Health Myths and Facts

The Zimbabwean 12 March 2017, says that, years of economic hardship and inadequate health services in Zimbabwe have contributed to a mental health crisis. But one unique project is using talk therapy to help thousands of people who would otherwise have been left untreated “some of the myths include witchcraft… people think they are possessed with evil spirits” says Dr Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist in the capital Harare.

Can you tell the difference between a mental health myth and fact? In this section we will learn the truth about the most common mental health myths.

Mental Health Problems Affect Everyone

Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Fact  : Mental health problems are actually very common and can affect anyone.

Myth: Children don’t experience mental health problems.

Fact  : Even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health concerns.        These mental health problems are often clinically diagnosable, and can be a product of the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.

Unfortunately, less than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact  : The vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Most people with mental illness are not violent and only 3%-5% of violent acts can be attributed to individuals living with a serious mental illness. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

Fact  : People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees.

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact  : Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need help to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including:

Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain Chemistry Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse Family history of mental health problems

People with mental health problems can get better and many recover completely.

Helping Individuals with Mental Health Problems

Myth: There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.

Fact  : Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.

Myth: Therapy and self-help are a waste of time. Why bother when you can just take a pill?

Fact  : Treatment for mental health problems varies depending on the individual and could include medication, therapy, or both. Many individuals work with a support system during the healing and recovery process.

Myth: I can’t do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

Fact  : Friends and loved ones can make a big difference. Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental health problems and less than 20% of children and adolescents receive needed treatment. Friends and family can be important influences to help someone get the treatment and services they need by:

Reaching out and letting them know you are available to help Helping access mental health facilities. Learning and sharing the facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that is not true. Treating them with respect, just as you would anyone else and refusing to define them by their diagnosis or using labels such as “crazy”

Myth: Prevention doesn’t work. It is impossible to prevent mental illnesses.

Fact  : Prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders focuses on addressing known risk factors such as exposure to trauma that can affect the chances that children, youth, and young adults will develop mental health problems. Promoting the social-emotional well-being of children and youth leads to:

Higher overall productivity, better educational outcomes lower crime rates, stronger economies lower health care costs and improved quality of life increased like and improved family life

By Tinotenda Tafirenyika

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