Mental Health Awareness Month: Setting the Record Straight – Myths vs. Facts

Photo by Christin Hume

By: W. Scott West, Medical Director

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Struggling with mental health is more common than you might think. Did you know:

If you or someone you love is experiencing mental illness, you are not alone and you deserve access to the care and resources you need to live your life to the fullest.

To help deconstruct the stigma around mental health, this month we’re setting the record straight on some common misconceptions about mental health:

MYTH: “Mental illness is a character flaw— if you tried hard enough, you could snap out of it.”

FACT: Too often, people carry the bias that mental health is a weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many things beyond our control contribute to mental illness including biological factors like family history, genes, and brain chemistry as well as life experiences such as trauma or abuse. Although these things happen to us, we do have the power to seek help and recover on our own terms. In this way, getting help indicates bravery and strength of character, not weakness.

MYTH: “You should only seek help if XYZ.”

FACT: Too many people suffer alone for far too long because they don’t think they “have it bad enough” to get treatment. Comparing your experiences and pain to others is never helpful. If you severed your finger, you wouldn’t delay getting help because someone else, somewhere in the world, severed their arm, would you? There is enough support for everyone and you seeking help won’t take resources away from others who might also need it. Even if you feel like your experiences don’t compare to those of others, you still deserve care and support.

MYTH: “It’s all in your head.”

FACT: Your brain is part of your body, just like your liver, kidneys, and heart. It is impossible to separate our cognitive functioning from the body, and many mental disorders have chemical and hormonal components. Something being “in your head” doesn’t dismiss its reality in your body and in your lived experience. Your body and mind are inextricably linked, and your mental health deserves the same care, attention, and treatment as any other injury or illness.

MYTH: “You can only experience X illness if Y.”

FACT: Sometimes, mental illnesses come with stereotypes. You might think that only soldiers suffer from PTSD or only teenage girls contract eating disorders. Not only are these kinds of generalizations reductionistic, they are harmful and can keep people from getting the help they need. Although certain patterns can and do exist, there aren’t rules for who can live with certain illnesses or how the illnesses will present. Even if you feel like you don’t “fit the profile” for an illness, your symptoms and experiences are valid and deserve treatment all the same.

MYTH: “There’s only one correct way to treat mental illness.”

FACT: Everyone is different and so treatment ought to be tailored to the unique needs of each individual. If you’ve only tried one form of therapy and found it unhelpful, don’t give up. There are many different types of treatment available. Cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and TMS therapy are just a few of the valid ways to address mental health disorders.

At Nashville NeuroCare Therapy, we specialize in treating depression using TMS therapy. Studies show that in depressed brains, centers that regulate mood aren’t as active as in neuro typical brains. TMS, or Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, is an innovative therapy that treats depression using magnetic technology to stimulate the neural networks in your brain that regulate your mood and behavior. TMS therapy offers real, lasting relief from depression in a way that is comfortable, safe, and free from negative side effects.

Visit our website to learn more about how TMS therapy could help you find freedom from depression. One last note— mental health is not just reserved for those struggling with mental illness. Just like everyone has a body and physical health, everyone has a mind and can experience varying states of mental health . . . including flourishing! Everyone deserves to invest in their mental wellbeing and access to supportive care and resources, even if it is preventative.