Mental health is a vital component of overall health and well-being. It encompasses our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and affects how we think, feel, and behave. Mental health is important for everyone, including children, and we must take care of our mental health just as we take care of our physical health.
Unfortunately, many misconceptions about mental health can prevent people from seeking help or fully understanding the impact that mental health has on our lives. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about mental health:
Mental health problems are a sign of weakness
This is one of the most harmful misconceptions about mental health. Mental health problems are not a sign of weakness, and they can affect anyone regardless of their strength or resilience. Resilience can be glamourised especially for women. We grew up hearing that mosadi o tshwara thipa ka bohaleng which in Sesotho means “a woman holds a knife by its sharpest side.” Basically, we should stand the pain and suffering as that is the sign of true strength. Vulnerability has never been a sign of strength, and where mental health is concerned, vulnerability is key.
Mental health problems are rare
Mental health problems are actually quite common. According to a study by the Frontiers of Public Health, “South Africans suffer higher rates of probable depression and anxiety than other countries.” So, mental health issues are not unique to our country and are more prevalent than we think.
Children can’t experience mental health problems
Children can and do experience mental health problems. In fact, mental health problems can develop in childhood or adolescence and can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in six children aged 2-8 years old have a diagnosed mental, behavioural, or developmental disorder. Teens are also highly susceptible to mental health issues leading to suicide.
Mental health problems can be cured with willpower alone
Mental health problems are not a choice, and they cannot be cured with willpower alone. Like any other health problem, mental health problems require treatment, such as therapy, medication, or a combination of both. People who are struggling with mental health issues can’t simply snap out of it.
So why is mental health important for everyone, including children? Here are just a few reasons:
Mental health affects all aspects of our lives
Our mental health affects how we think, feel, and behave, and it impacts all aspects of our lives, including our relationships, work, and daily activities. It also plays a big role in how we parent our children, and I talk a lot about that concerning conscious parenting. When our mental health is poor, it can be difficult to enjoy life or perform everyday tasks. So, if we are challenged in any aspect of our lives, it is important to take a step back and notice how we are mentally and work needs to be applied to feel better.
Mental health can impact physical health
Mental health problems can have physical symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, and digestive issues. Additionally, poor mental health can lead to unhealthy behaviours, such as substance abuse, overeating, or a lack of physical activity, which can increase the risk of physical health problems. After years of battling “ulcer-like” symptoms that had me hospitalised numerous times, therapy helped me learn that I have trauma-related issues that were manifesting themselves as physical issues. The mind is a powerful thing!
Mental health problems can be debilitating
Mental health problems can be just as debilitating as physical health problems. They can interfere with work, school, and social activities, and they can make it difficult to enjoy life or pursue our goals. Have you ever felt like not wanting to do anything for weeks and months on end, and even struggling to simply get out of bed? These issues can be crippling and take away your will to do the things you love, and even things you have to do e.g take a bath.
Here are some of the most common mental health issues people experience:
- Anxiety Disorders: Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry and fear that interfere with daily life. Symptoms include restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, and difficulty concentrating.
- Depression: Depression is a mood disorder that causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. Symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating.
- Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. Symptoms include episodes of mania (high energy and euphoria) and depression.
- Schizophrenia: Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel, and behave clearly. Symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, and disordered thinking.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): OCD is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurring, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviours (compulsions) that interfere with daily life.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a disorder that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance of triggers.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes difficulty with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
- Eating Disorders: Eating disorders are mental health conditions that involve extreme behaviours and attitudes surrounding food and body weight. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder.
Without a formal diagnosis, it is hard to tell if you have any of these illnesses. You can take a screening test through the Mental Health America site. Click here to screen yourself or on behalf of a loved one you are concerned about.