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Common Misconceptions

When looking at mental health and how it is perceived within society, there are still a lot of misconceptions. This segment lists the most common of them.

People with mental health challenges are dangerous or violent
  • A very common misconception is that people who struggle with their mental health or/and well being, are¬† dangerous. This is far from true as the most common mental health issues people tend to struggle with are not linked to dangerous or violent behaviour (Mind, 2017).
People are either mentally ill or healthy
  • Another misconception is that you are either mentally ill or mentally healthy. Different factors influence and affect one’s mental health. These can vary over different periods of time. There is no such thing as always being mentally healthy or feeling well (Pulse, n.d.). An additional misconception is that people who are struggling with their mental health, are weak mentally. ¬†Mental health is not the same as mental strength. Mental strength is seen as the part of one‚Äôs personality that contributes to how they deal with stress, the pressures and challenges no matter the circumstance (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2015). People who deal with depression can be mentally strong. Many people living with mental illness are incredibly strong, they just need some help (Port St. Lucie Hospital, 2019).
People with mental health illness cannot cope with everyday tasks
  • The idea that people who are dealing with a mental health issue cannot handle everyday responsibilities, is a misconception that often leads to systemic hiring discrimination (Port St. Lucie Hospital, 2019). Mental health issues are not rare, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any given year (2013).
Men do not suffer from mental illness and eating disorders only affect women
  • The misconception is that men are generally stronger and therefore are less prone to live with mental health issues (Pulse, n.d.). This will be discussed in depth later in the chapter.
  • Eating disorders can affect anyone. Moreover, the misconception that eating disorders are a choice is a harmful one. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions, and, in extreme cases, they can be fatal (Newman, 2020).
Children do not experience mental health issues
  • Mental health issues can impact everyone, even children. About half of all mental health issues show the first signs before a person turns fourteen years old. However, only about 20% of children with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help children before it affects other developmental needs (MentalHealth.gov, 2017).

Discussion Point

How can  you tackle or prevent mental health misconceptions in the classroom?

Misconceptions and gender stereotypes

When looking at the previously mentioned misconceptions, an often less apparent misconception is the one about gender. In the beginning of adolescence, girls and boys face increased pressure to conform to stereotypical gender roles. This leads to a development of increasingly differentiated gender roles. This is one of the reasons why it has been argued that there are differences in the mental health of boys and girls, or men and women (Priess, Lindberg & Hyde, 2009).

One misconception is that women are more likely to suffer from mental health issues than men. However, Schumacher (2019) found that in the United Kingdom, men committing suicide is about three times higher than women. This is mostly connected to the argument that men are less likely to talk about it when they are suffering with their mental health (Pulse, n.d.).  Similarly, that eating disorders only impact women, is debunked by the fact that currently 10 to 25% of all cases of eating disorders are males (Newman, 2020).

There is still a biased use of pronouns when talking about factors that lead to mental health issues, for example abuse. Where often men are seen as perpetrators and women as victims. Those pronouns can then be extremely damaging to all the male victims of abuse, who still live unacknowledged in society. Which makes men suffer in silence. If we do not move away from these gender pronouns, these men will not feel acknowledged and possibly will not seek the help that they need (Lisak, 1993).

Lisak (1993) argues that the social norm should change. According to him it’s still very common that men cannot be vulnerable, or helpless, or experience their pain. These are misconceptions that are so harmful, that they still steer millions of victimised men away from receiving help and in a continuous state of denial. Over time the conception of gender and gender practises has changed, yet the old contrasts still influence current conceptions and practises (Rosenfield & Mouzon, 2012).

Discussion Point

How might gender stereotyping affect the classroom?

Impact of Misconceptions

These misconceptions have a certain impact on how we treat people with mental health issues. This affects how we see mental health issues and how we view our own health. One way of dealing with these stereotypes is by recognizing them and what it is and takes to possibly overcome mental health issues. The first step in a progress such as possibly overcoming, is by talking to a professional (Port St. Lucie Hospital, 2019).

Additionally, those misconceptions do not just exist among the general public; even well-trained professionals from mental health fields condone these misconceptions. Corrigan and Watson (200) argue that society seems to be more likely to condemn a person with mental health problems than someone with physical conditions, as their illnesses are not always visible and because of the stigma that surrounds mental health problems.  The WHO found that just knowledge and understanding of mental health has a big impact on how individuals, societies and public health communities deal with mental health issues (WHO, 2013).

According to Corrigan and Watson (2002), there are three effective approaches to dealing with misconceptions:

  1. Protest: Standing up to false information and asking for accurate information and  representation.
  2. Education: Educating insitutions, groups and individuals about mental health  and the harmful effects of misconceptions.
  3. Contact: Contacting mental health organizations for more informatio.

As educators it is important to work together to eliminate these misconceptions that surround mental health and mental health issues. Recently, there is more accurate attention in the media about mental health, yet the challenge remains (Newman, 2020).

WANT  TO LEARN MORE?

In this Ted talk, Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman advocates breaking down the barrier that comes from stigmatising mental health, and how breaking it down would result in better treatment of individuals.

Importance for education

Knowing and perhaps more importantly, understanding these misconceptions is essential for education. Subsequently, when we teach children at a young age that talking about their feelings and struggling with mental health is accepted, we teach them to be more understanding of others and themselves. Opening a conversation and clarifying their misconceptions could prove to be quite valuable.

 

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Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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