Series 4 Unlearning Wellness Misconceptions - Mental Health
There has been quite a bit of buzz about unlearning what we grew up learning about many, if not all, areas of life. First off, it’s not a bad thing to unlearn what we have been taught or what we have learned throughout the majority of our life. Having to unlearn something can be painful and a real challenge. But put it into perspective; we’re only unlearning because we’ve found a new way, a better way to have a better quality of life. In this Unlearn series, I’ll explore the different things, common things, cross-culturally, that we have been taught about different areas of health and wellness. For the first topic, we’ll discuss the one that truly impacts many different areas of our overall well being. The first topic is mental health.
Mental health has only recently, it seems, come into an accepting light. There are two reasons for this. The first is, newer generations are more open to talking and sharing experiences on nearly anything and everything, including mental health. Secondly, and sadly because, a lot more people are having their challenges with managing their mental health and it is obvious. There is now a refreshing open-mindedness around the subject that had not existed in previous generations. There is also an overwhelming desire to help manage your own mental health and help others that simply was not common. In the process of establishing these open conversations, we are having to unlearn what we know and knew, in order to progress. You can’t change, if nothing changes. In other words, in order to manage our mental health, we’ll have to explore what we know and how that came to be. Most likely that will come from how we were raised, the environment in which we learned it and the cultures we grew up in and how accepting all the components were in the topic of mental health.
Baseline, mental health as a whole was and in some ways, may still be a taboo subject. It’s a sensitive subject; especially for those being challenged by their own. Here are the areas that we need to unlearn and why:
Mental health fluctuations means you are not "normal"
Mental health fluctuation like any other area of our health is normal. Is it normal that our weight fluctuates and responds differently to different food? Yes it is. So why isn’t it normal that our mental health fluctuates when we experience different things throughout our life? No difference. It is normal and will happen; it is all part of the human experience.
Mental health instability means you are weak
Similar to the previous point that needs to be unlearned, our mental health will have moments of instability. Moments of instability automatically implies that your mental health was stable but something happened for it to become more of a challenge. So, mental instability doesn’t make a person weak, it makes them responsive to their surroundings and situations that go beyond our intended human experiences. Daily stressors, grief, war, health conditions are just a few of the things that can contribute to the instability of our mental health. It doesn't make us weak, it’s just part of our normal human response; our normal human response to overwhelming experience.
Only women have mental health challenges
It is downright sad this is a point that has to be unlearned. It is the reality of the world we have built for ourselves. Men are expected to be strong at all times and in a moment of struggle, expected to cover it up and not seek out any help, solely because he is a man. Men are statistically shown to not have challenges with mental health as much as women do. Men actually fall lower statistically in prevalence of mental health challenges. This isn’t because women are experiencing it more, the data is skewed because women are the majority of who is reporting, not because men are experiencing it less. We have not cultivated an environment in which men are comfortable sharing this part of their health; this must change.
You will grow out of it
The majority of our mental health challenges begin at a very young age. In fact, it is at a very young age that we develop the way we cope with mental health challenges and how likely we are to seek help in it. So no, unfortunately, we do not grow out of the challenges. Our mental health, like other areas of our health, will need to be tended too throughout our lifespan.
You are too old to benefit from mental health intervention
As stated in the previous point, our mental health will need tending to all our lives. Perhaps the only difference is that we need to change the way we approach it in different times in our life. Why? Because each season in our life will include different experiences and we will go through different stressors throughout. Why would our method of coping be the same as when we were teens? Our healthy mental health practices evolve with us as we age so that we can benefit the most out of it. Different ages, different needs. There aren't any stopping points or a point in which we shouldn't take care of it.
The only way to get better is with medication
Medication is never the only answer. It is valuable and in many cases needed, but it is not the answer for every person and in every circumstance. Medication will not be the only answer but it can definitely be a useful supplement for mental health. We are complex beings with complex needs. There isn’t one solution or one medication that will help us improve our mental health. It is a combination of things that we can benefit from to improve our mental health. Such things as incorporating more movement, change in routine and talk therapy are some ways that will improve our mental health. If medication is part of the equation, that is perfectly okay as well. The point is not to think it is the sole answer to mental health.
These points may not encompass all the points that need to be unlearned about mental health but it is a good launching point. If we can unlearn these, when we learn of other things that are misconceptions about mental health, it will be a lot easier to unlearn them as we have already unlearned some of the most troublesome ideas around it. Taking care of our thoughts around mental health will allow us the ability to take care of other areas of our health and wellness. By taking care of our mental health and how we perceive it, it will influence how well we perceive the importance of any area of our health; it is mental health after all (i.e. our mind = the place where we hold our ideals of what health is and how to maintain it).
What are some mental health misconceptions that you have grown up with?