The Importance of Mental Health Literacy
Often, we see mental health portrayed in TV shows, movies, news articles, and other media outlets, and we may or may not be aware of the accuracy of these portrayals. Mental illnesses are far too often inaccurately portrayed in the media, for purposes of dramatic entertainment or to stereotype people who are mentally ill as violent, unpredictable, and truly unlike the reality of people who face mental health challenges.
Myth: People facing mental health challenges are violent.
Truth: People facing mental health challenges are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. Only about 3% of violent acts can be associated with people who are living with a serious mental health condition. The truth is that actually, people who are living with serious mental health conditions are over ten times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. It is very likely that you know someone facing a mental health challenge, as people living with mental health conditions are no different than anyone else, and they are deeply engaged and invaluable community members.
Myth: Mental health conditions are a result of personality or character flaws.
Truth: Mental health conditions have nothing to do with laziness or weakness. Often, people living with mental health conditions need treatment in order to get better – like any other physical illness. Some factors that can contribute to the manifestation of mental health conditions include: genetics or other biological factors; life experiences such as trauma; and family history of mental illness.
Myth: You cannot do anything to help someone who is facing a mental health challenge.
Truth: In reality, friends and loved ones can make a world of a difference by helping and supporting someone through getting the treatment they need and deserve. They can learn about mental health and be there to listen, show unconditional support, and shine light on how to access mental health resources.
Myth: Recovery from mental health challenges is not possible.
Truth: The truth is that help, hope, and recovery are real. There are many treatments, resources, and community support services that individuals can immerse themselves in during the process of recovery. Often news articles do a very poor job of illustrating this by not including links to resources or help-center phone numbers when writing an article on the topic of mental health; all media should include links and access to these readily available resources in order to spread awareness of the reality.
It is vital to analytically perceive and assess what you read on the news and the mainstream media. Question it, be inquisitive, and ask yourself: Is this true? Is it representative of reality? Or is it just for dramatic effect? Talk to as many people as possible who are impacted by mental health challenges to gain a better understanding of real lived experiences. Most importantly, remember that what you see is influenced by alternative agendas and pressures; prioritize seeking and spreading the truth.