Mental Health, in Pakistan, remains a heavily stigmatized subject. Families still hide members struggling with mental health issues with shame. Fearing discrimination, employees still conceal their struggles from employers. And, individuals suffer silently in fear of becoming social outcasts. Often mental health issues are met with ridicule and disdain, instead of understanding and compassion. This inadvertently wreaks more havoc for the suffering individuals.
The primary reason for the existence of such stigmas is the lack of understanding of what a mental illness is.
Most people suffer stress and experience difficult emotions, occasionally. Mental illness is any condition that makes it difficult to emotionally function in daily life. It can affect your relationships, your job, or other pursuits in life.
With this in mind, the following is an attempt to discount five most common misconceptions about mental health:
One of the most common misunderstandings about mental health is categorizing individuals as either mentally healthy or unhealthy. However, mental health is not black or white. Rather, it exists on a spectrum. If a person is thought to be displaying depressive thoughts, for instance, it does not necessarily mean that they have clinical depression. Rather, it means that on a spectrum they lean towards depression. Those who have visited a psychiatrist must know that they hardly ever hand out a clear diagnosis. Instead, they always use much vaguer terms to help you understand your predicament. This, however, does not mean you should take it lightly and avoid help. A mental health patient, first and foremost, needs well placed guidance.
Emotional difficulties that children or teenagers face are often just discounted as “growing pains”. That is, in fact, a gross misunderstanding. According to Pathstone Mental health (Canada), one in five children struggles with psychological issues. Moreover, seventy percent of adult mental illnesses reportedly begun during childhood or adolescence. They are also much easily treatable at early ages as compared to adulthood. This makes it abundantly clear that the sooner you detect a mental illness, the better quality of life your child stands a chance of having.
While there is no “cure” for mental illness in the traditional sense, this does not mean that its symptoms cannot be managed enough for a person to lead a completely normal life. To tell someone suffering from depression that they would always feel this way would not only be untrue but also damage their recovery. The truth is, while a mental illness might always exist, it is usually perfectly manageable. So hang tight, there is hope!
There is no correlation between mental illness and violence. Dr. Heather Stuart explained in a 2003 paper on the subject of violence and mental health, that a mental illness is “neither necessary nor sufficient [to cause] violence.” This means that having a mental disorder does not inherently make a person violent. Nor does being violent indicate that a person suffers from a mental illness.
This particular stigma is severely counterproductive to the recovery of a patient challenged by a mental illness. One of the most important factors needed for recovery of any kind is social support. A lot of time people feel pressurized to ‘fix’ themselves before they pursue any sort of relationship, friendly or romantic. This belief causes them to isolate themselves, which only further damages their health. While it’s true that mental illness does add pressure to relationships, it should not disqualify people from pursuing them.
In this day and age, with increasing awareness regarding mental health, it has become increasingly important for us to educate ourselves. Not only to better our own mental health but also for the people bound to us in relationships. And, even more: for a better space for future generations to openly express themselves and overcome their mental health struggles with ease.