Mental Health Awareness Week is happening now, which makes this a good time to take a look at how mental health is affecting us here in Singapore. Increasingly, people are now open to talk about it, but they don’t necessarily understand it.
According to a study done by the Institute of Mental Health last year, one in seven people in Singapore has experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime. Yet, a 2016 study showed that more than three-quarters of people with a mental health condition in Singapore did not seek any professional help—this was described as a “treatment gap”.
In 2014, a nationwide study examining mental health literacy by the Institute of Mental Health found that a majority of people believed that those with mental health issues could just get better if they wanted to. This misconception can prevent those who need help from coming forward. But when IMH opened their Mental Health Helpline to the public in 2015, call numbers surged by 70%. So clearly there is a need to discuss this more openly.
One of the greatest difficulties facing those with mental health issues is mistrust and fear—and these are often unfounded. Here are 10 common misconceptions about mental health, which can prevent those who need it from seeking help. The animals are just there to remind you to show a little compassion. You wouldn’t treat them any differently right?
1. People with mental conditions are violent and dangerous
People who are mentally ill are generally no more violent than others. They are more likely to be victims of violence than to be violent themselves. In fact, they sometimes fear contacting the outside world because they are not sure how they will be perceived.
2. People with mental conditions are poor and less intelligent
Mental conditions can affect anyone regardless of intelligence, social class or income level.
3. Mental conditions are caused by personal weakness
Experiencing a mental condition is not a character flaw. It has nothing to do with being weak or lacking will power.
4. People who are depressed can snap out of it if they try hard enough
Depression has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It can be caused by traumatic life experiences, as well as changes in brain chemistry or brain function. Proper treatment is often required in order to properly heal and recover.
5. Mental conditions cannot be treated
Mental health professionals are well-equipped to provide treatment to patients with mental conditions. Medication and other forms of psychological treatment are very effective particularly if the patient is diagnosed early.
6. People with mental conditions cannot lead meaningful lives
When properly treated, people with mental conditions can have enjoyable and fulfilling lives.
7. People with mental conditions are hopeless and have nothing to look forward to
They can still lead a normal, productive and meaningful life. Effective medical and psychological treatments, and community support are available to help them re-integrate back into the society.
8. Once a person develops a mental condition, he or she will always remain sick
Studies have shown that people with mental illness can become better and even recover completely with treatment, Like other kinds of illnesses, the earlier the condition is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chances of recovery.
9. Mental illness is similar to mental retardation
These two conditions are different. Mental retardation is distinguished by the restricted intellectual functioning and difficulties which cause varying degree of difficulty with activities of daily living. On the other hand, a mental illness alters an individual’s thinking, mood and behaviour. The intellectual functioning may or may not be affected.
10. Mental illness only affects the weak and old
Mental illness can affect anyone. All age groups are vulnerable to mental illness; most of the mental patients have their onset by their second or third decade of life.
If you or anyone you know feels down and wants to talk about it, don’t wait. These helplines in Singapore are here to help:
- Mental Health Helpline: 6389 2222
- Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800-221-4444
- Silver Ribbon: 63861928, 67424190, 63853714
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we are covering various mental health conditions in our stories. Read related stories here:
Text: Karen Fong
Additional text: Hidayah Idris