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There is a lot of stigma when it comes to mental health and people tend to believe that physical health is more important but you you need both things to be considered a healthy person. If you have been following my Facebook or Instagram you would know that a fellow follower, online friend and mental health advocate has committed suicide. Ashley was a former mental health nurse who struggled with mental illness and severe clinical depression for over a decade that eventually got to a point where it was too painful and she felt it was her time to go. I was inspired by Ashley because despite her severe depression she still was able to stay on top of her blog at mentalhealthathome and write a few books to help break the stigma of mental illness. Ashley’s death was tragic and is a huge loss in the mental health community but it made me realize that we need to be talking about mental health to help encourage people to get professional help if they feel like life is not worth living or if at the very least to let people know that you don’t have to struggle with mental illness alone. In this post, I am going to talk about some mental health myths that you have probably heard and may even believe that are simply not true and can actually hurt someone with mental illness.
Depression is just sadness– Some people believe that people who have depressive disorders aren’t meditating enough and are just sad which is scary because when you minimize someone’s pain by telling them it’s in their head it makes people think that what they are experiencing is not real and discourages them from getting professional help. When it’s your last day of vacation and you realize that you have to wake up early for work tomorrow that is sadness but when you see no point in life you are beyond the point of feeling a little sad and are mentally ill! Everyone has moments when they feel a little sad and that is okay because it’s a part of life but depression is not sadness and it’s when you feel like there is no hope.
Therapy is for the weak- The sad reality is that not everyone will open up about their depression because some people do not believe therapy is a good treatment option and sometimes people will stay silent about it because their families don’t believe you need therapy to improve your mental health. In my experience people that say therapy is for weak people are those who do not understand what you do in therapy because it’s not weakness but it shows strength and it takes a mentally strong person to admit that they can’t do it alone.
Christians don’t get depressed- Mental illness can affect anyone and even those who are Christians that believe God is in control can struggle with mental illness. I know a lot of Christians who have depressive disorders because mental illness does not discriminate or care what religion you practice and it doesn’t make you any less of a person when you struggle with depression as a Christian. I get so mad when people say that Christians should not struggle with depression or anxiety disorders because we all have something that we struggle with and it’s a little abelist to say that a Christian should have it all figured out. Christians who struggle with depression may look at things in a more biblical way than a non-believer would and have different standards for a therapist but you still can get depressed as a Christian and there shouldn’t be extra pressure on Christians to be perfect because no one is and when you make someone feel ashamed of their depression it makes people try even harder to hide it.
You are not exercising enough-. There is no denying the fact that exercise can help some people cope with their depression and sometimes people wrongly believe that you are depressed because of a lack of exercise or meditation. Exercise can help some people manage their depression but when you are severely depressed sometimes you don’t have the energy to exercise. What are you supposed to do if you have a physical disability and are unable to exercise? I think exercise can help some people manage depression but your mental illness is not solely based on how much you exercise because for some people exercise is not an option. Mental illness is not something you can just exercise away and it needs real solutions like medication or therapy and it can be so harmful to tell a depressed person that they are not exercising enough.
Suicide in selfish– When someone commits suicide or is thinking about it people sometimes people will say that it’s selfish because you are not thinking about all the people you are leaving behind. I would imagine that when you are in a place where you feel like you are not loved that you are not thinking about the people you are leaving behind but are only thinking about ending your pain. Selfishness is when you get mad that your mom won’t buy double of everything and that you have to share your toys with your sister but when you are depressed it’s not a case of being selfish and it’s mental illness.
Depression is a real mental illness that some people are able to heal from but unfortunately, that is not the case for everyone because sometimes you don’t have the support you need to get better. Social media can be toxic and if you are constantly being bullied it can be the reason for your depression but for many disabled people social media is not the problem because it’s where are friends are. Social media is by no means a substitute for therapy and I don’t know what triggered Ashley to feel unloved but I do suspect that ignorant healthcare providers that weren’t giving her the treatment she needed played a huge role because she has mentioned several times how social media was not the problem and that it helped her for so many years. Everyone deserves a little happiness and we need to do more to support people with mental illness because it’s valid pain and although you won’t be able to prevent every death you may be able to prevent some by being kind and believing someone’s pain is real. Depression does not a have certain look and you can appear happy, go to work and hurting inside. What mental health myths have you heard?
If you would like to see some of the work Ashley put into mental health advocacy you can read her blog, social media or purchase one of her books with the links below:
*Therapy saves lives and if you feel your mental health slipping there is no need to be embarrased of it because you are not alone! Do not be ashamed to reach out to a friend if you are struggling with your mental health because we all have our own struggles and it’s okay if you need a little help sometimes.
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