Addressing 5 Common Mental Health Myths
For many parents, understanding the mental health of their children can be filled with guesswork. And there’s no shortage of advice that may (or may not) be accurate or relevant.
Read on to learn about some common mental health myths and to get a clearer picture of what is normal, what needs attention or what to do when you feel there is a problem.
Myth: Mental health is mental illness
Our health is made up of both our physical and mental health and wellness. Just as physical health is not the same as physical illness, mental health is not the same as mental illness.
- Impacts how we feel, think and behave.
- Includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being.
- Changes from time to time (sometimes it’s better than others).
Mental illness includes conditions (such as anxiety and depression) that can significantly:
- Affect our thinking, feeling, behavior or mood.
- Impact our ability to function in daily life.
Everyone experiences highs and lows throughout their lives, regardless of whether or not you are diagnosed with a mental illness. It is possible to have poor mental health without experiencing a mental illness and good mental health while dealing with a mental illness (with treatment and proper management).
If you are confused or concerned about your child’s mental health, consider consulting with a mental health professional.
Myth: Kids can’t have mental health challenges
It might surprise you to learn that kids of all ages can have mental health challenges. All children have emotions and brains; therefore, all children have mental health.
Support your child’s mental health by:
- Teaching about feelings. Use real-life examples and fictional characters from books to talk about different kinds of feelings.
- Teaching how to identify and express feelings by using “I” statements: “I feel __ when __.”
- Teaching how to manage feelings using healthy coping strategies (e.g., deep breathing, coloring, counting to 10, going for a walk, talking to a friend, etc.)
Myth: Bad parenting leads to mental health challenges
While it is true that parenting can affect some behavior in children, no single factor causes or prevents mental health challenges. The environment, genetics, a child’s social influences and parenting all play a part. Many factors contribute to mental health, and playing the “blame game” or feeling guilty doesn’t help anyone move forward and heal emotionally.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, here are some things you can do:
- Seek proper assessment and treatment.
- Help your child learn coping skills and build resilience.
- Discuss, and know (as best you can), your family’s history regarding all health conditions, both physical and mental.
Myth: Doctors are quick to diagnose and medicate
Some parents don’t want to discuss concerns about their child’s mental health with their pediatrician because they are worried that it will automatically result in a diagnosis that could stay with the child for their whole life. Although it’s true that sometimes a diagnosis may be necessary to receive needed treatment, it’s better to get the help you need. And not every child who is feeling sad will get a diagnosis of depression. They might just receive some support and learn helpful coping skills to get through a difficult time. It is much better to get help than to avoid it.
Not everyone needing mental health support needs medication, either. Even if a professional suggests medication as an option, it is always a parent’s choice to accept the recommendation or not.
Myth: Discussing mental health gives kids ideas
There is no research to show that talking about mental health puts ideas in a child’s mind or causes kids to develop mental health challenges or disorders. In fact, many would argue that being open and honest about mental health will only result in decreasing stigma and increasing access to appropriate care. One example of a concern that parents often have is that talking about suicide will give their child the idea. There is no research to support this myth.
A child, of any age, talking about suicide is a significant red flag and should always be taken seriously. If you are concerned that your child has suicidal thoughts or behaviors, call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225. This line is staffed 24/7 by licensed mental health clinicians.