Despite the escalating numbers of patients suffering from mental health illnesses in urban India, this topic is more or less taboo and discussed only in hush-hush tones. Statistics state that around seven per cent of Indians suffer from mental health issues and it is an issue that cannot be ignored. The unwarranted social stigma related to this is one of the reasons that led to such myths. There are too many myths surrounding mental illnesses. We spoke to psychiatrists and clinical psychologists to get a low-down on this…
1 Myth: Only very few people suffer from mental health problems
Fact: Psychiatrists and psychologists say that cases of mental illnesses have only increased in the last few years. It does affect many people. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Kersi Chavda says, “Disorders like depression occur in as much as 20 per cent of certain populations.” Clinical psychologist Seema Hingoranny states, “Since the past three years, there has been a 30 to 35 per cent increase in my patients. Where earlier I was getting around three to four clients a day, I now have around ten almost.”
2 Myth: Once a psychiatric patient, always a psychiatric patient
Fact: Dr Kersi says, “More than 70 per cent mentally ill people make very good recoveries and can lead normal lives.” A lot of research is being done in the field of psychology and there are various kinds of treatments for all the different kinds of mental illnesses. And also, there have been numerous cases of people recovering completely and leading a normal life, thanks to the sophisticated treatments.
3 Myth: Kids don’t do through mental health problems
Fact: Children do have mental health problems. Seema says, “Some of my young patients have a genetic predisposition to depression. There are some who suffer from attention deficit disorders, while others whose response to the environment is highly sensitive. These children do need treatment and they respond quite well to it as well. In fact, they are more accepting about therapy than those who are in their 40s and 50s.”
4 Myth: Blame the parents if the child has a mental health issue
Fact: Mental disorders could be caused due to many reasons – environmental factors, genetic predispositions, biological factors, chemical imbalances, prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs, stressful events. Abusive treatment or neglect by parents could lead to problems but that is not the only cause, say experts.
5 Myth: People can ‘snap out’ of depression and other disorders
Fact: Mental health professionals state that mental disorders are serious issues that have to be treated by professional doctors and therapists. And depression is a very serious mental disorder that needs treatment urgently. Dr Kersi says, “Depression should be treated only by medication and counselling.” Seema explains, “Depression has nothing to do with the character of a person – it is definitely not a character flaw. And people who are actually suffering from it cannot just ‘snap out’ of it. This disorder needs thorough treatment – just like a dental problem needs a dentist or a heart problem needs a cardiologist. Depression needs therapy, yoga mediation and medicines – it differs from case to case.”
6 Myth: Addiction is a lifestyle choice and shows a lack of willpower
Fact: There are a lot of factors that affect a person and make him an addict. It could be like underlying psychological or psychiatric conditions that have made him pick up the bad habit and it is not easy for that person to give up addiction unless the causal factors are not treated. They cannot give it up easily without medicines and regular therapy.
7 Myth: Therapy is a waste of time. Pills work best
Fact: Though there are many people who believe in this, most do not realise that this is far from the truth. Seema says, “Emotions cannot get better with pills. These can only be used to illnesses with treat hormonal and genetic predispositions. Trauma cannot get cured without therapy. ”
8 Myth: Mental disorders are caused by black magic, evil nazar or past life karma
Fact: Dr Kersi says, “Mental disorders have a basis on biochemical, structural and genetic bases.”
9. Myth: Medication continues for life.
Fact: Dr Kersi says, “First episodes of mental disorders usually need medication for around a year. Recurrent, inappropriate medicine intake might require it for longer time periods. And most medication work towards making you function better than before.”
10. Getting married treats mental issues
Fact: That is certainly not true state experts. “The stress associated with a new relationship may actually aggravate mental health problems,” states Dr Kersi.