Mental Health myths
Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medallist in the USA gymnastics team recently withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics because of mental health issues. Simone is the USA’s most successful ever gymnast and said of her decision,
"I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. That’s why I decided to take a step back."
The 24-year-old has been praised for her honesty and courage by many yet criticised in equal measure for being selfish and weak by some. Let that sink in for a moment. A young, successful black woman who has spoken openly about being a survivor of sexual abuse prioritises her health and wellbeing and is attacked online? #Bekind is really over then.
Some critics have accused her of using poor mental health as an excuse. True this has been by people who delight in criticising successful black women at every opportunity but besides the overt racism and misogyny there’s something else: the idea that mental illness is a choice. Would they ever accuse a person of using their poor physical health as an excuse? No of course not, because they know that would be ridiculous. Why is it then that mental illness is viewed as something people can control? The many myths surrounding mental health increase the stigma and discrimination with many saying this is even harder to bear than the actual condition itself as it also stops people from getting help.
Here are some common myths about mental health.
It’s just in your head. Yes, because that’s where the brain is. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Only certain people experience mental health issues. No. Anyone can experience poor mental health just like anyone can experience poor physical health.
People with mental health problems could just ‘snap out of it’ with enough willpower. You wouldn’t ask someone to ‘snap out of’ having Diabetes so why would you say the same thing about mental health conditions?
Mental health problems are caused by weakness. No. The exact cause of most mental illnesses isn’t known, but research indicates that many conditions are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
Positive thinking can fix mental health issues. No. Whilst an optimistic outlook is great, an obsession with it becomes toxic positivity. This is where positivity is demanded from people regardless of their difficulties which can lead to people denying their emotions, feeling isolated, ashamed and not seeking support.
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