Let’s be honest, we’re all affected by mental illness in some way. One in five Canadians will experience a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, regardless of their age, cultural background, income or education level. That means every single Canadian (including yourself) has been — at the very least — indirectly affected through a friend, co-worker or family member.
The tragic reality, though, is that many of us have no clue what it means to struggle with these issues (let alone help with them) thanks to an abundance of mental health misconceptions. In order to support those suffering in silence, we need to break down which common perceptions are actually myths.
All people with mental illnesses are dangerous.
We’ve all seen one or two movies where a person (typically a young female) is wearing an oversized white shirt with tangled hair, who goes from mumbling incoherently to yelling threats at anyone and everyone. Sure, this can make for the beginnings of a fun, scary movie, but it’s often not how most people with mental illnesses act. People who have a mental illness (whether that’s schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression or almost any other disorder) are typically no more violent than those suffering from a common cold.
Children don’t experience mental health difficulties.
Here’s a shocking stat: Almost 20 per cent of Canadian children are affected by a mental disorder. Even worse is the fact that suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15 to 24-year-old Canadians. And since only 25 per cent of kids receive the mental health services they need, it’s really time for something more to be done.
It’s important that we talk to kids openly and honestly about mental health so we can help guide them toward other helpful resources if need be.
Anyone can recover by taking medication.
Not all people affected by mental illness can be treated with medication alone. While some people find relief with the daily use of antidepressants, pills to help with anxiety, or a combination of the two, others seek cognitive-behavioral therapy as either a substitute to medication or as an extra means of support. To pick what’ll work best for you, learn about all the available options first.
People with mental illnesses are weak.
Mental illness is not your fault. I repeat, it is not your fault and it is not a condition that you choose to have. It’s nothing to be ashamed of at all. If you were experiencing a really awful migraine, for example, you’d get it checked out, right? Likewise, a chemical imbalance in the brain is something that should be openly spoken about and looked after. You are not alone.
Talking Doesn’t Help.
If you feel like you’re walking on egg shells around a loved one, you shouldn’t necessarily leave them be. Reaching out to a friend or family member experiencing a mental illness can make all the difference in the world. Less than half of adults with a diagnosable mental health disorder seek treatment just because of the harmful stigma surrounding these illnesses. In a lot of cases, friends and family members add to those damaging attitudes that stop loved ones from getting professional help. So think before you attach a harsh label to something (or someone), because you never know who’s listening.
It’s time we started talking openly about our mental health. Join the conversation on Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 25, and help end the stigma around mental illness. For every text message sent and mobile or long-distance call made by Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs. The same goes for anyone sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk, posting on Instagram using #BellLetsTalk, watching the Bell Let’s Talk video on Facebook, or sending a Snapchat using the Bell Let’s Talk geofilter. But talking about it is just the first step: Visit letstalk.bell.ca for more ways you can effect change and build awareness around mental health.