Mental illness and other psychological disorders have always been controversial. One of the main reasons this topic can be so polemic is all the myths surrounding it. There are many wrong beliefs about mental illness and psychological disorders, but right now, I’d like to focus on one that’s very damaging and sheds a light on the long road we’ve still got to travel when it comes to mental health.
There’s many ways to express this damaging belief, but it boils down to something like this:
“A mental illness is just a fancy way of naming a person’s weakness”
Sure, we’ve all experienced moments in which we’re anxious, sad, or afraid. And though, technically, it’s not quite wrong to say “I’m depressed” when we have had a bad day (or week); there’s still a big difference between the sadness we feel during a bad streak and actual clinical depression. The same goes for anxiety –one of the most misunderstood terms in psychology. There’s a huge gap between feeling nervous before a work interview and having frequent panic attacks.
When we talk about mental illness, we’re referring to psychological or cognitive afflictions that cause long-term symptoms, and more importantly –they’re genuine.
So, if someone fights against anxiety, depression, paralyzing fears or panic attacks and still does his or her best to manage daily tasks; that person isn’t showing weakness, but strength. Because facing one’s internal ghosts requires courage. And doing something about it requires even more.
What can we do to fight this myth?
To think that people with mental illness are somehow weaker or lack willpower, only reflects how much we don’t know about what they’re going through. Mental issues aren’t about one’s general mood. They go deeper than that. To label someone with depression or anxiety (to name the most common mental afflictions) as weak, is not only judging others, it’s promoting a social stigma that can prevent people from seeking help.
Just by understanding this concept, we’re already fighting against damaging beliefs.
If, on the other hand, you’re the one struggling with mental illness; I’d like you to know that it does not define who you are.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong in getting help and daring to live.
You’re much more than a label. You’re much more than an illness. We all are.
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