What are some of the worst misconceptions about mental health?
Lots of good answers here. I'd add:
- Mental illness happens to ‘others'. If it doesn't happen to you then it's likely to be the person to the right or the left of you.
- Medication doesn't work, or causes mental illness. Medication has a legitimate role in the treatment of many mental illnesses
- Medication is the treatment for mental illness. Medication is the ladder that helps you climb out of the hole, therapy is the work of climbing. There is no elevator.
- Mental illness is caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters. This is my favourite misconception. The reality is that we have a very incomplete understanding of most mental illnesses, and neurotransmitter changes may be associative rather than causal. This simplistic misconception is unhelpful at best and self-serving
- Mental illness happens to individuals. People live within complex systems of relationships and roles, any understanding or treatment is incomplete without this understanding.
- Your past determines your future.
- Your past is unimportant. Life experience directly influences brain development, think of it as a type of physical memory rather than a narrative memory. Brain development is plastic throughout life, if it wasn't then we couldn't learn new things and therapy would be unhelpful.
- DSM is a universal truth. DSM is only one of many diagnostic systems, but one that is deeply flawed at a conceptual level. That's not to say that diagnoses are unhelpful but they need to be understood with the advantages that any diagnostic system brings, along with it's limitations and flaws.