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Mental Health Articles

Getting Your Head Straight On Mental Health

Mental health is all about how we think and feel. The mental health problems we may face are not always easy to understand or talk about. But it helps to get the facts right. There is a lot of misinformation surrounding mental health. Here are a few home truths to help you sort it out.

Myth

‘In a class of 30 students I’d say maybe 1 or 2 might have a mental health problem, what ever that is…’.

Truth

In fact, 1 in 4 of us will have a mental health problem at some point in our lives and anyone can be affected. They don’t always last forever and many can be treated - just like problems with your physical health.

Myth

‘Students living away from home are way better off. No family pressure, no stress, more privacy…it’s great…’

Truth

Research has shown recently that 1 in every 3 students living away from home suffer from depression. People can feel alone and depressed whether they live with a lot of people, their family or in a flat by themselves, it depends on the individual’s ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle in their individual situation.

Myth

‘People who say they’re depressed are sad... they’re just having a bad day…they need to get up and stop feeling sorry for themselves…’

Truth

Anyone can get depressed: Movie stars, sports stars and even you. It is absolutely nothing to do with being weak or sad. It’s a low mood that lasts for a period of time so you are unable to enjoy life and feel unable to cope. Be tolerant and supportive if someone you know seems depressed.

Myth

‘Schizophrenics are dangerous people with split personalities like in the movies…’

Truth

This is a particularly damaging misconception that Schizophrenia Ireland has worked hard for a long time to dispel. It is nothing to do with ‘spilt personalities’, but people suffering from this mental illness may hear voices or see things and find they become confused sometimes. Don’t believe everything you see on T.V. Sufferers are more likely to hurt themselves than ever be a danger to anyone else. The word is much scarier than the illness itself which can affect 1 in every 100 of us. Some people with it may even only have 1 episode. The way people treat those around them with schizophrenia, when they do not understand the illness, can be more damaging than even the symptoms themselves!

If you want to help, learn more, read up a little, and try to understand where someone with schizophrenia might be coming from.

Myth

‘People who cut themselves are mad for attention…’

Truth

People who self-harm aren’t all the same. Some do it to escape from something bad; others do it to punish themselves for something. For some it can seem like the only way to purge themselves of anger or pain. It is a hard thing to understand but if you learnt that a friend or loved-one was self-harming you should try to be there for them. Try to be calm and supportive.

Myth

‘Anorexics and Bulimics just want to be skinny like models or just want attention from the ‘cool’ people in college…’

Truth

People with eating disorders often lack self-confidence and have feelings they find hard to deal with. Controlling weight is their way of handling or trying to cope. Some people are just naturally slim but some do try and maintain an unhealthy weight in order to create an image of themselves they ‘like’. Not eating can be wrongly perceived as an ‘accomplishment’. Those suffering with such illnesses should be supported and not judged. Don’t think you need to have all the answers but just try and support them. And remember, help is always available.

Myth

‘Anyone having a bad time can just pop an anti-depressant and that helps them get back to normal…’

Truth

First off, what’s normal?. Anyone at any time can suffer from mental ill health and yes, there are treatments but it’s not just about a drug making a problem go away. Treatments include medication, counselling and psychotherapy, depending on the case.

Myth

Violent & aggressive= mental illness

Truth

People with mental health problems or an illness are more likely to be attacked then they are to attack others.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If one of your friends or a member of your family has a mental health problem:

  • See the person
  • Just be a friend
  • Listen
  • Don’t leave them out
  • Try not to judge

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, ALWAYS ASK FOR ADVICE.

If you are feeling down, depressed or just not yourself:

  • Tell someone
  • Don’t blame yourself
  • Accept it is okay to ask for help
  • Not everyone will understand-so find someone who will, friends, family, GP, counsellor etc.
  • Do some exercise, try a little activity

Information courtesy of The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Changing Minds Campaign.