Mental Health Myths: Barriers to a Happier You
By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
There are many sources for mental health myths. In fact, we’re bombarded by them in ads, books, social media and pop culture. For the average person, these references do no real harm. But for people in need, they can be dangerous. They can keep them from seeking help when it’s required.
Here are some examples.
Remember, “Let it go!” from the Disney movie, or if you’re a little older, “Don’t Worry. Be Happy!’ How about Cher’s admonition to “Snap out of it!” from Moonstruck? There are many examples from song, movies and television shows would seem to offer advice on mental health.
Song lyrics, movie scripts and sitcoms are all set pieces with pre-conceived outcomes. It’s no coincidence that just the right turn of phrase from Grandma, Dad or even the neighbor next door allows everything to fall into place and puts a wry look of understanding on the hero’s face. Depression and anxiety are left behind and life happily goes on. Roll credits.
The pull of pop culture can be so strong that consciously or sub-consciously, you may be led to think, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” The vicarious resolution to a fictitious problem may make you hesitate, and avoid seeking professional help.
Self Help Gurus and Books
The bookshelves and libraries are full of pop-psychology books, some penned by the stars of daytime television hosts. Some people may find inspiration in them, which is not the same as therapy. On the air, television hosts always seem to have a quick-fix answer to the issue of the day before the last commercial. Real life isn’t that neat.
What a lot of people miss is the fact that therapy is a dialogue, not a discourse. Therapists listen to feedback, which informs them what path the discussion should take to help the patient move forward to a healthier place. Your situation is totally unique, it’s not like anyone the author of a book knew, or the guest of a daytime talk show. Did you ever read a book or watch a television show and wish you could ask a question? You can during the discussion you have with a therapist. The answer will also be unique and tailored to your particular needs.
Relatives and Friends
Then there’s the parent, wise aunt, or even co-worker who says, “Therapy is nonsense! I never talked to some stranger about my personal problems!” That may be true. But either they had no need to seek help (lucky person), or suffered needlessly for years with an undiagnosed mental condition.
The problem with these mental health myths is, while they may mean well, they have no idea what you are feeling. Some of the reason for their negativity can be generational, therapy is much more mainstream and accepted today and recognized as important as physical health. That’s why so many health care plans cover the treatment.
Mental Health Clichés
“There are people out there worse off than you.”
“When the going get tough, the tough get going!”
“It’s not like you broke a leg.”
“It’s all in your head.”
Friends and relatives often fall back on these bromides when discussing mental health issues. We’ve even put together a whole list of these clichés in a video. Watching it, I’m sure you’ll hear some very familiar refrains. Remember, none of these sayings are true. Don’t let them stand between you and receiving the peace that comes from hope.
Breaking Through the Barriers
The purpose of this article is not to cast negative light on pop media or self-help books. We ourselves post articles that we hope you will find inspirational or helpful. But they always conclude with an invitation to meet with us in person for a professional conversation. We never leave you with a lot of questions and no way to answer them.
We always want you to feel there is someone to reach out to. Because there is. Don’t let rumors, hearsay or folklore keep you from seeking help and living a happier, fuller life.