May is Mental Health Month. It’s an opportunity to have a conversation about an issue that affects every single American and to help people find treatment they may need, and emphasize the importance of workplace wellness in May and every month of the year.
The truth is though; we shouldn’t just talk about mental health one month a year. Unlike so many illnesses, Americans don’t talk about mental health over the course of the year—or ever, really. That needs to change.
In our country, there’s no shame in having high cholesterol, cancer or diabetes. We rightfully rally around those who are living with these illnesses and give them the support they need to fight another day. We can do that because people with physical illnesses are rarely ashamed to talk about them. They don’t wait until Stage 4. But when was the last time someone confided in you that they personally were struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or some other mental illness? How would you respond?
When it comes to mental health, silence is driven by stigma. According to the Center for Reintegration, there are five common myths about people living with mental illness.
Myth #1: Mental illness is the same as mental retardation.
The Facts: Mental illness and mental retardation are entirely different. Mental retardation is primarily characterized by limitations in intellectual functioning, while intellectual functioning varies among persons with persistent mental illness just as it does across the general population.
Myth #2: Recovery from mental illness is impossible.
The Facts: While these illnesses are persistent, with treatment the majority of people with mental illnesses achieve genuine improvement in their symptoms and lead stable, productive lives. As the treatment of mental illness has advanced, the focus of treatment has shifted from simply minimizing symptoms to true recovery.
Myth #3: Mentally ill and even those whose illness is effectively treated tend to be second-rate workers.
The Facts: Individuals with mental illnesses may, in fact, be superior in many ways to their co-workers. Employers who have hired these individuals report that their attendance and punctuality exceed the norm, and their motivation, work quality, and job tenure is as good as or better than that of other employees.
Myth #4: People with psychotic disabilities cannot tolerate stress on the job.
The Facts: The response to job-related stress, and precisely which factors will be perceived as stressful, varies among individuals with psychiatric disabilities just as they do among people without such disabilities. For all workers productivity is optimized when there is a close match between the employee's needs and his or her working conditions.
Myth #5: Mentally ill and mentally restored individuals are unpredictable, potentially violent, and dangerous.
The Facts: This myth is reinforced by media portrayals of people with mental illnesses as frequently and randomly violent. However, study by Cornell University found no evidence to support such portrayals. The fact is that the vast majority of individuals with psychiatric disabilities are neither dangerous nor violent.
Learn more about Mental Health America and download 2015 Mental Health Month tools at www.MentalHealthAmerica.net/may.