5 Persistent Mental Health Myths

Photo by Joel Naren on Unsplash

Over the years, I have observed how hard most people are on themselves when it comes to their emotional and mental health. Persistent myths about mental and emotional struggles prevent us from developing an empowering way of acknowledging our pain and seeking the help we need. In this article, I’m going to address some of the myths that kept too many of my clients from getting the support they needed sooner rather than later.

Myth #1 — “I should be able to ‘power through’ difficult situations on my own.”

This pernicious myth probably stems from the fact that we’ve all heard some version of “power through,” or “keep your chin up,” so often, it’s become what we tell ourselves whenever we’re struggling. What I’d like to help people realize is this: you don’t have to “power through” ALONE. A critical part of dealing with complex, frightening or painful emotions is being able to talk about what you’re going through in a safe, supportive setting — whether that’s with a counselor, a trusted advisor, a parent or a friend. I’ve had clients tell me that being able to share their pain in a safe setting for the first time was like lancing a boil. The relief was immediate and it enabled them to start the work toward attaining a greater sense of emotional wellbeing.

Myth #2 — “I am the only one struggling, and nobody can possibly understand my pain.”

This is a myth I have wrestled with myself. It’s human nature to feel that what we’re experiencing is unique to us. But while it’s true that we are each unique, it’s absolutely not true that we are the only ones struggling with complex emotions. To be human is to experience emotional distress. And even while we honor the fact that no one will ever be able to understand our pain exactly, sharing our experiences in a supportive environment can be life-changing. Letting go of this harmful myth and seeking a safe place to talk about what we’re going through is a critical step in the journey to improved mental and emotional health.

Myth #3 — “People with mental health diagnoses are ‘crazy’ and there is nothing you can do for them.”

The primary purpose of a diagnosis is to provide a possible guideline for treatment. It is not a label that permanently defines someone. We are each so much more than a diagnosis. We are human beings, we are teammates, scholars, readers, artists, friends, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. We grow and change with lifetimes of experiences. Let’s bash this myth by refusing to use the word “crazy” to describe ourselves or other human beings going forward.

Myth #4 — “Nobody wants to hear my problems.”

As a counselor, I frequently worked with youth who had struggled longer than they needed to because they thought their pain was undeserving of attention. There are people who commit their lives and careers to be a support for people during difficult times, and they are trained to contribute. Dispelling this myth, letting young people know that their emotions are valid and it’s ok to ask for help with painful feelings is one of my life goals.

Myth #5 — “People who talk about their feelings just want attention.”

When a friend’s infant daughter burst into tears at a family dinner, a well-intentioned relative suggested that she was “only crying to get attention.” Moving quickly to her child, my friend replied, “Exactly.” It makes such sense. If someone asks for attention, it’s because they need attention. Shaming them or denying the validity of their need doesn’t make the need go away. Over the past decade, we have seen such a surge in the suicide rate, school shootings, and peer bullying in the teen/young adult population. People who ask for help or whose behaviors indicate they are struggling should be taken seriously and fully supported in getting the help they need. And if this myth is something you are telling yourself, if you’re judging yourself for needing help to deal with your feelings, please stop. Honor yourself. Your feelings are valid, and there are resources available to you wherever you are 24/7. I’ve listed some of them in the disclaimer below.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant as professional advice or counseling. If you are in emotional distress or experiencing thoughts of harm to yourself or others, help is available 24/7:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255 (TALK) Spanish & English; Deaf & Hard of Hearing TTY 800–799–4889
  • Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor
  • Call 911
  • If you need mental health treatment but cannot afford it, contact Rise Above The Disorder, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to making mental health care accessible to everyone: YouAreRAD.org