This week we were inspired by World Mental Health Day and the global shift towards focusing on our collective mental wellness. In our opinion, one of the major detriments to mental health normalcy and prioritization is stigma. As a global society there are still many misconceptions about mental health. These misconceptions lead to generalized stereotypes, misunderstandings and discrimination against those with mental illness.
Whether we have stigma in our own minds, society or workplace, the fact that many of us fear the repercussions or judgement of others is proof enough that stigma still exists. In the end, the result is that most of us suffer in silence and isolation. Today’s post is going to focus on the top misconceptions of mental health. We hope sharing our own stories helps reduce the stigma and helps empower even one person to seek the help they deserve!
Mental health stigma statistics
In order to build more awareness, we wanted to share some Mental Health Statistics with you all. We gathered information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA government agency) and Mental Health America advocacy network.
If you look at the statistics, it’s easy to see that many people suffer and will suffer from mental health related issues in their lifetime. Our interpretation is that these numbers are only the people who were formally diagnosed with mental health related issues. The reality is that there are likely millions more who suffer in silence, in part due to the negative stigmas that people associate with mental health.
As we know, unlike physical health, your mental health is hidden from the world. We wear emotional scars and wounds and many of us hide behind fake smiles. We choose to suffer in silence and we even convince ourselves that certain misconceptions are true. We believe the fallacy that everyone else is put together, so we should pretend to be too.
The reality is, we all face our own issues and we all have ups and downs and no one is truly “put together”. Mental health doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or race. Mental illness is truly not any one person’s problem, it is a global problem and we must all come together to start the change. Hopefully, if we can remove the stigma of getting help and talking about mental illnesses, then we can all move forward towards greater happiness and joy.
What stigma is and stigma labels
- Personal Stigma – This is the stigma we place on ourselves. This can be thoughts that we aren’t worth getting help, that everyone has the same issues and we will just get over it or the irrational fears that keep us from seeking help.
- Societal Stigma – This is the stigma we fear from outside parties and friends. The fear that people will judge us or see us as weak. Afterall, it’s always easy to convince someone that a broken arm hurts but harder to convince someone that a mental “injury” hurts just as much.
- Workplace Stigma – This is the stigma we fear from work. The fear that we will be seen as lazy, weak, and as unable to do the job.
These stigmas stop us from going out and getting help, from sharing with one another and moving forward. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health and this thought shift only occurs if we change together.
7 common stigmas
1. Emotionally Weak
One of the personal stigmas that we face is the fear of being seen as emotionally weak. This makes us afraid that socially and professionally we will be seen as meek and timid. We’re afraid that people will see us as our mental issue and nothing more and that they will exclude us by thinking we cannot handle life.
Ultimately, we can definitively say that having a mental illness and prioritizing your mental health do not make you emotionally weak. Rather, it shows an emotional fortitude that others do not have. It shows that you have an awareness and understanding of yourself on a deeper level. Having the ability to recognize problems, set boundaries and get help is a great sign of emotional strength. Challenges only make us grow stronger in life and challenges of the mind only work to strengthen you as well.
A common stigma is that people think we aren’t productive if we’re “bummed out”. People can think that we are distracted or that we don’t want to do anything if we suffer from mental illness. Very personally, as people who suffer from OCD and anxiety, we fear that people will think we take too long to get work done or that we can’t concentrate.
Contrary to this, we’ve found that people are more productive and work harder, better and smarter when they are “bummed out”. The reason is, doing work and getting things done can be a good distraction from your problems. We realize that nothing will progress if we don’t move forward ourselves. After all, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” – Billy Ocean. Finally, making progress and getting wins only serves to boost our mood and help our self-esteem.
3. You can't be happy
There is a stigma where we think if we have mental health issues that we can never be happy again. The thought is that people who have any form of mental health issues cannot be happy so they shouldn’t even try. It doesn’t help that Hollywood and the media tend to portray that those without so called mental issues are always happy and their lives are great. The reverse being that people who are open with their problems are seen as sad and unhappy. This dichotomy ultimately has us believe that these are the only states of being for mental health.
This is completely untrue and unfounded in reality. We all have the capacity to be happy and sad. As humans, we all have the ability to feel the full spectrum of the emotional rainbow. Regardless of what we are going through we all deserve to feel joy. We can also say from personal experience, even when you hit the lowest of low points and you think you won’t feel happy again that this too shall pass. You will and deserve to be able to feel joy and happiness again. In our darkest moments, we felt that we couldn’t and would never be happy again. After finally getting the help we needed and opening up to those around us, we were able to find the joy in life. That joy is there and ready for you to take it and you are always worthy of it! See post here to see where you get self-worth.
4. You need people to solve your problems
This is a misconception that is very common in daily life itself. When we share our problems, we aren’t always looking for a solution. Most of the time, we know what we need to do to solve the issues. We simply speak to be heard and vent. Venting and talking through a problem can help us solve our own issues and we are not looking to have our problems solved. If people want help to solve the actual problems, they will ask for your opinion. Otherwise, sometimes all we can and need to do is make the person feel heard. It’s here that we like to turn to one of our favorite quotes:
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
5. Mental illness and problems are rare
Another common stigma is that mental illness or anxiety in general is rare. The fact that mental health is hidden and that most of us suffer in silence, we tend to believe that it is a rare occurrence. This leads to thoughts of ineptitude as we think we are the only ones suffering so there must be something wrong with us. However, as you can see from the infographic, most of us will suffer from some form of mental health issue in our lifetime. However, because of these stigmas, many of us refuse to get help and seek out others. We end up believing that it’s rare to have these problems.
The reality is, many of us do and will suffer from these issues. While you are unique and your experience is your own, we all have likely experienced something in the same vein. We think that you would be hard pressed to find someone who has never had an anxious thought before. Ultimately, you should know that you are not alone.
You can see a guest post here to see how an ER doc manages their anxiety and to see that we all face mental health problems.
6. Treatment and medicine make you weak
This was a huge misconception for us personally. When our OCD first hit, we were very hesitant to get treatment or take any form of medicine. We started fearing what others would think if they found out. We were afraid that we would be become reliant on external substances and not on our own strength and will power. Honestly, once we finally accepted the outside help from our psychiatrist and psychologist, we truly feel that we were getting better. The medicine and therapy brought us back to a normal level where we felt we could fight back on equal footing with our problems. In this post we discussed in detail the tools we used to improve our mental wellbeing.
A key note – you should never self-medicate, always go see a medical professional and licensed physician for treatment and medication. We here at Tomodotchi are only sharing our stories but we are not medical professionals. We are by no means endorsing you to take medicine without consulting a doctor!
7. Care is only for people with severe problems
The final misconception is that care is only for those people with “severe” problems. Many times, we refuse to get help because we think it’s not a big deal or that the problem will resolve itself. We are afraid of wasting people’s time because our issues don’t appear that bad. In our opinion, getting care when you are in this position is one of the best times! The reason is that care can give you tools to fight against later issues.
When you are doing well, it’s easier to set yourself up for success down the road. Additionally, we all have different tolerance and what we think might not be severe could very well be to other people. We need to recognize that we aren’t alone in this world and we don’t need to go it alone.
What can we do to change?
Ultimately, what can we do to change these Stigmas? Well, we can take our mental health seriously, we can open up, we can share our stories and go get the help we need and deserve. We can end these stereotypes by recognizing that mental health is a priority and mental illness doesn’t make anyone weak. Mental illness is not what you see in a Hollywood movie and it is closer to home than you think. We can create a community of love and support and happily move towards a future where we can be there for one another!
Some final food for thought, if you are feeling particularly anxious and need a reminder how awesome you are, check out our open letter to those dealing with anxiety and depression. Finally, if you want to read our opinions on overcoming being overwhelmed, check out this post and in our last post, where we discuss how to understand different personalities for better communication!
Until next time!
We all need to do our part to clear up the misconceptions and stigmas against mental health. Sharing our stories and getting the help we need are great ways to show that not only are we all similar, but it’s ok to prioritize your mental health.
As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 2 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!