There are a lot of myths about mental health, some that contribute to the ongoing stigma creating barriers for young people seeking support. Knowing more about the realities of mental health issues can help you better understand how to support and empathise with the young people you care for. This can also help you normalise difficult emotions for young people who often feel isolated and alone.
Mental Illness can’t be treated
There are many treatment options for people experiencing mental health problems. These range from professional medical intervention to more psycho-social supports or even alternative therapies. A lot of the time the most successful interventions are a combination of these options. Exploring all these options with young people may help them to better understand what ‘treatment’ may look like.
People with depression or anxiety are weak and need to just ‘snap out of it’
Depression is not just a frame of mind that people can just snap out of nor it is it a weakness. In fact these are the two most damaging things you could say to a person experiencing depression, who already probably has thought them many times themselves. Reinforcing these things will often just mean young people will be less likely to ask for support when they need it.
One of the biggest obstacles for people recovering from mental illness is confronting the negative attitudes of other people. These often mean that people with mental illness face isolation and discrimination just for having an illness.
So when you are talking to someone about their problems, phrases like “cheer up”, “pull yourself together” won’t help. Try to be open-minded and non-judgemental. You won’t always understand what’s going on for the other person, but lending an ear is the important part.
Cannabis use causes schizophrenia
The is no evidence that cannabis use directly causes schizophrenia, in fact many people who use cannabis will never experience any mental health symptoms. However for young people who have a genetic predisposition to mental health problems, using substances such as cannabis can increase the risk of the young person experiencing mental health concerns.