In turn, mental health language has rapidly entered our cultural vernacular – in precisely the wrong way. Every day we hear words related to mental health being used in ways that are nothing short of absurd.
If you feel a little bit sad today, but felt OK yesterday, you’re probably not ‘bipolar’. If you wash your hands after you go to the toilet, and like having your bed made, it’s unlikely you’re suffering from ‘OCD’. If your boyfriend dumped you two days ago, and you haven’t stopped crying, you’re not necessarily ‘depressed.’
You’re human. The condition you’re experiencing is called ‘being human.’
Here, we’ve outlined the eight most common misconceptions about mental illnesses, because they need to be challenged if we’re to remove the stigma from mental health issues.
Watch: Mia Freedman discusses how she deals with her anxiety. (Post continues after video.)
1. Being a clean, organised person makes you “a little bit OCD.”
First, let’s address the grammatical issue with this statement. It doesn’t make sense to say, “I’m a little bit Obsessive Compulsive Disorder!” It’s like saying, “I’m a little bit depression”. Microsoft Word would give you a very angry green squiggly line.
OCD actually involves obsessions (e.g. the obsessive thought that you’ve left the oven on), and compulsions (e.g. checking the oven multiple times to see whether it’s on), and sufferers often feel a great deal of shame about their behaviours. That is, they’re not making Youtube videos about how to neatly stack cookie jars in a series called ‘KHLO-C-D’ (this is the title of Khloe Kardashian‘s web series).
2. People with a mental illness are violent.
When we hear about a person committing a violent crime, it’s often assumed they’re suffering from some sort of mental illness. To a degree, this makes sense; if someone attacks, rapes, or murders another human being, we can probably infer that they’re not stable and well adjusted.
However, someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be the victim of violence that the perpetrator of it. And individuals suffering from anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or bipolar are significantly more inclined to hurt themselves than anyone else.
So we need to be careful not to conflate mental illness with violence. Such beliefs are stigmatising and ultimately very damaging to those suffering from mental health issues.
3. Being moody is a bit like having bipolar.
Yesterday, you might have cried watching puppy videos on the Internet. Today, you may have wanted to embrace the person next to you because you’re just so thrilled to be alive. That’s OK. Humans are weird. Sometimes we don’t feel exactly how we think we should, or we don’t respond in a predictable way.