Are You Guilty of Believing These Common Mental Health Myths?
Mental health awareness is rising, but it’s still not exactly where it could be.
After all, there are still plenty of common misconceptions that run rampant across social media and in the workplace.
They might seem harmless, but when we consider the implications that mental health misconceptions can have on the workplace, it’s suddenly much more serious.
(You know, since some of the people that may believe these myths are in charge of hiring and firing, or managing team members, or creating mental health initiatives…)
What are the common mental health myths, and why are they incorrect?
“People with a mental health condition can’t hold down a job.”
Surprisingly common, and unsurprisingly, untrue.
Top tip: if you can’t think of anyone who has a mental health condition in your workplace, that means it’s probably just you.
We’re joking – it just means that there’s a high likelihood that many of the people you see powering through their working day also have a mental health condition, or alternatively, that people might fear a certain reaction to them disclosing their mental health.
It’s commonly said that 1 in 4 adults have experienced a mental health condition, but even this doesn’t account for those who are unknowingly coping with one, or those who experience conditions of a more transient nature (with varying degrees of intensity that comes and goes over time).
Interestingly, workplaces with a strong emphasis on mental wellbeing are more productive by up to 12%, whilst also reducing the high costs of mental health absence and presenteeism.
Did you know? In a survey of UK adults, 56% said they wouldn’t hire someone with depression… even if they were the best candidate for the job.
“Mental health problems aren’t as common as social media makes them out to be.”
You could be forgiven for assuming that the high visibility of mental health discourse on social media only makes it seem like a high percentage of the population have mental health conditions.
Here are some statistics to dispel this misconception:
– The UK has the fourth highest rate of antidepressant prescriptions in Europe, at 50m per year
– Mental health problems are one of the main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide
– 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression) in any given week in England
– In 2022, the number of workers reporting work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain was 822,000
Given that many of the studies and surveys around mental health are often specific to a rather narrow demographic, it can actually be assumed that more people have a mental health condition than we’re aware of.
“People with mental health conditions are violent.”
Whilst this phrase in of itself may cause a (justifiable) amount of rage, the misconception that those with mental health conditions are violent is still rather prevalent.
Research into this area is still somewhat spotty, given that this public perception relates more towards the historical criminalisation of mental health as opposed to on a statistical basis.
However, the 1-year population-attributable risk (PAR) of violence associated with serious mental illness alone was found to be only 4% in the Epidemiologic Catchment Area survey – meaning that 96% of the violence occurring in the general population isn’t attributable/related to those with a mental health condition.
In fact, those with a mental health condition can often be likelier to be a victim of violence rather than a perpetrator, with prevalence ranging between 7.1% and 56% (owing to other risk factors such as homelessness, substance use, and young age).
The media may sensationalise violence in the context of mental health, but this stigma has very little basis in reality.
“Mental health problems are a sign of weakness.”
Whether you’re scrolling through posts by LinkedIn gurus championing ‘mental toughness’ as a remedy for depression, or simply overhearing what colleagues in your office assume is a fair conversation, it can be hard to avoid hearing the opinion that those with a mental health condition are weak.
You wouldn’t turn around and say that a broken wrist was a sign of weakness (we’d hope).
Mental health conditions are just as valid as physical conditions, given that both can result in unavoidable symptoms that can’t just be ignored.
Those who are continuing to commit to work whilst dealing with a mental health condition are likely very resilient – hardly the same as being weak.
Top tip: The way that you talk about mental health, particularly in relation to media (e.g., Kanye West’s very public mental breakdowns) can be extremely detrimental if it involves mockery, stigma, or invalidation – Kanye West might not see your opinions, but your colleagues, friends, and family that might be struggling with their mental health will.
The bottom line
This is barely a drop in the ocean when it comes to the misconceptions and myths around mental health.
Mental health conditions are hardly uncommon, which means that for every myth and misconception we spout, we’re simply fuelling the continued stigma against mental health rather than positively contributing.
The next time you hear or see a mental health myth being spoken about like it’s a fact, take a deep breath and feel free to correct them – alternatively, you could link them to this blog post instead… we don’t mind!