August, 2020

Mental Health Myths Dispelled

Mental health factors, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, don’t affect your overall health as much as physical factors.

Reality: Your state of mind is connected to and shapes all other bodily states, and needs equal attention. For example, South Asians are already at high risk of diabetes. Excess stress increases the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can further increase blood sugar and accelerate progression to diabetes. A mental condition like stress can directly affect your physical health

Stress symptoms are not as serious or damaging to your health as anxiety or depression symptoms.

Reality: Many stress symptoms overlap with those found in depression and anxiety. In the mental health process, there is a continuum of symptoms, from less severe to more severe. The symptoms often have similar underlying mental and physiological mechanisms. Stress, anxiety or depressive symptoms may indicate that a person’s responses are not a good fit with his or her current life situation. These responses can be improved if the underlying physical and mental mechanisms are addressed.

Mental health symptoms have to be severe in order for someone to seek help, and if one does seek assistance, it is embarrassing or shameful.

Reality: Life in Canada is very demanding and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression are very common in all populations, including South Asians. Paying attention to these symptoms and seeking help does not need to be embarrassing or shameful. When the diagnosis is made by a professional, it can bring great relief to the people suffering and their families.

Mild versions of stress, anxiety or depression symptoms are just part of life’s usual “ups and downs.”

Reality: Milder versions of stress, anxiety or depression can serve as warning signs. They can indicate a gap between the demands of your present life situation and your current coping ability. If the demands become more intense, then more serious symptoms and unhealthy habits may be set in motion. The benefit of seeking help when symptoms are milder is that more severe symptoms can be prevented when life becomes more demanding.

Will power, or learning to control your thoughts and reactions to difficult situations, can help solve your mental health problems.

Reality: Mental and physical health are not created in isolation, but in a complex web of related factors. Good health comes from a combination of many sources, such as your family history, financial situation, culture, current and past relationship dynamics, to name a few. Isolating “will power” or “positive thinking” as factors that can alone improve everything underestimates the complexity of mental health.

Positive stages of life (marriage, having children, job promotion, moving residences, etc) should not result in anxiety, stress or depression.

Reality: Any major life change, even if it is a change for the better, requires mental recalibration and adaptation. This process can take longer and be more difficult than you anticipated. Many mental and physical capacities are adjusting to all that is new, as well as dealing with that which has been lost. For example, the birth of a child can present a tremendous amount of adjustments, personal strain, marital strain and a loss of freedom that many parents may not have anticipated.

Children don’t get depression or other mental illnesses; their emotional problems are just part of growing up.

Reality: Parents naturally want their children to do well, so some may brush off or explain away behavioural problems or other childhood difficulties as being mere growing pains. However, numerous psychiatric conditions, including depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders, can and do occur in childhood. The U.S. Center for Mental Health Service reports that one in every 33 kids and one in every eight teens suffers from depression – and that’s just one disorder.

People with a mental illness never get better.

Reality: Treatments for mental illnesses are more numerous and more sophisticated than ever. As well, researchers continue to discover new treatments. Because of these advances, many people do recover from mental illness, and others are able to keep the condition under control. Today’s pharmaceutical treatments are better able to target the specific parts of the brain where treatment is needed. The treatment goal of a full recovery is not unreachable. That goal involves more than just drugs; it also includes being socially and physically active because recovery means getting people back to leading normal lives.

Once you are diagnosed with a mental illness, you are crazy for the rest of your life.

Reality: If you have diabetes, are you unable to lead a normal life? Of course not. With proper treatment and a healthy lifestyle, people with a physical disease such as diabetes live full, rich lives. Mental illnesses are also treatable conditions. With a thorough assessment, appropriate treatment and support, people with a mental illness can – and do – lead happy, productive lives.

All people get depressed as they grow older; it is part of the aging process.

Reality: Depression is not an inevitable part of aging. Neither is it normal for an older person to lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy; experience excessive sleep disturbances; or suffer from an inexplicable lack of energy. If an older person you know is showing any these signs, they may actually be depressed. Seek professional help to determine if depression or some other issue is behind these troubles.

Depression only affects women.

Reality: While the prevalence rate of depression in women is twice as high as in men, depression is experienced by both genders. A possible reason for the higher prevalence rate in women is that depression is often underreported in men, especially in cultures such as the South Asian cultures that discourage men from sharing their emotions or being vulnerable. In fact, the suicide rate is significantly higher in men than in women so depression in men should be taken very seriously

If a parent is depressed, then their child will definitely be too.

Reality: If depression runs in the family, genetically the child is more likely to develop depression. But just like with physical illnesses such as high blood pressure or diabetes, genetic predisposition does not automatically mean the child will become depressed. . The parent and child should just be aware that the child is at a greater risk and make informed life decisions for a healthy lifestyle to reduce the child’s chances of becoming clinically depressed.

It’s a person’s fault if they are depressed.

Reality: Developing depression is not a choice. However, like other physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease the choice rests in how to treat it. A good lifestyle, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise routine & treatment by a professional, are all related to lessening the symptoms and treating depression.

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