May is Mental Health Awareness Month! What better way to celebrate the awareness of keeping your mind as healthy as your body than to discuss some myths and debunk the negative ideas surrounding mental health.
Myth 1: “If I seek help for my mental well-being, I must be “crazy. Nothing could be further from the truth! Talking to a professional who is trained to help identify negative thinking patterns is more a sign of strength. It takes courage to admit you don’t have it all together and need help. If you have grown in an environment where everyone has a similar mindset, you may never know the thoughts and behaviors you function in are unhealthy until someone from the outside with no agenda can challenge those thoughts. Cognitive behavioral approaches to therapy are used by professionals to identify, challenge, and help individuals replace negative thoughts with more balanced and rational thoughts and ideals. Some seek therapy not because things are wrong but because they want to keep a positive mind!
Myth 2: “My problems and pain only affect me”. While we might think that our thoughts and mental health only affects us, this is not necessarily so. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, studies show that the risk of developing a disease is increased if another family member is similarly affected, suggesting a hereditary component. Acknowledging and seeking professional health for mental health issues, can arm your children and future generations with information to help should they have similar challenges. Preventative measures to taking care of your body is highly encouraged in the medical community. The mental health profession encourages the community in the same manner. Most physicians will now screen for mental health symptoms, including depression screenings at your yearly checkup. This may include asking about your parents and immediate family.
In addition to our mental illnesses being a trait that can be common within a family, mental health challenges have symptoms and behaviors that can having lasting effects on those around us. How many of us have witnessed a deeply saddened or angry family member? Do you still deal with the memory of how those behaviors of our loved one impacted your life as it spilled over into yours? We could all possibly trace some form of trauma due to addictions, anxiety, depression, PTSD, mood disorders or anger of someone we care about. Do you have any habits that you aren’t fond of that you know you learned from your family or social environment? Imagine if the stigma of getting help from a professional had been removed sooner and they were comfortable getting help to learn a better way to function and process those thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
Myth 3: “If I admit that I have a mental illness, I’ll be labeled”. Rather than taking a negative approach to mental illness, refocus that thought and use it as a tool. When you are aware that you have a mental illness, you can live the rest of your life aware of the needs you have to function at your highest capacity. Once you can name your challenge, you can educate yourself on how to approach mental wellness. For some that may mean alerting those around you how to best support you when you have an episode or exhibit symptoms. For others it may mean arming yourself with a “toolbox” of strategies to cope and get through your day. Some will find that knowing they have a mental health diagnosis requires medication management and weekly talks with a mental health professional to monitor symptoms. Your therapy sessions are kept private and confidential and you can share your treatment as you wish. Mental health professionals are mandated by laws to protect your information with few exceptions.
So, what should you do? Let’s take advantage of the resources in our communities available to us. Get the support of a mental health professional in your area even if you use it as an opportunity to “vent”. Mental wellness is vital to our well-being and as a result most insurance plans have some form of coverage to ensure their subscribers can seek therapy. Ignoring your emotions or behaviors does not take away the fact that you may need help, however acknowledging your need for help can increase the likeliness that you can maintain the life you wish to have.