• Mental health issues affect 1 in 4 people in the UK

  • If you aren't affected yourself, chances are that you know someone who is

  • Therapy can help with many common mental health difficulties. If you are struggling, find a therapist here 

The way you feel and think about yourself; how you behave towards yourself; the quality of your relationships; how you think and feel about them – these are all indicators of your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mental health is a state of wellbeing where every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

They are many reasons why we might suffer in our mental and emotional health. No baby is born with mental health difficulties. It all happens after birth: life circumstances; how we react and adapt to those circumstances and what sort of support we have in place can make a world of difference.

Some adverse life circumstances that can cause or at least contribute to mental ill-health include: Abuse, physical illnesses/disabilities, bereavement and complex grief, rejection and abandonment, isolation and loneliness, debt and financial difficulties, problems at work or school including bullying, relationship breakdowns and hormonal changes.

Any of these can happen to anyone at any time. Yet, unhelpful misconceptions around mental health can make it difficult for people to reach out for the support they need. These include:

Myth No 1: It only happens to others - people who are weak, of a certain gender, IQ level, age or race; people who live in certain localities or have a certain lifestyle. This is not true. Every human being is vulnerable to mental ill-health.

Myth No 2: Only people who ‘think negatively’ suffer from mental ill health. The truth is, you can be the most ‘positive thinker’ and still succumb to mental ill-health if the circumstances are right. Sometimes positive thinking can help with your resilience. However, there are times when positive speaking is used as a psychological defence against the pain we might not yet want to or feel able to face.

Myth No 3: Closely linked with the above is the idea that if I admit I am struggling with depression or anxiety, for instance, it means I am ‘claiming’ it and then it will happen. To the one who subscribes to this, it feels better to remain in denial. This is a massive misconception that keeps people from reaching out for help.

Myth No 4: For some, mental ill health is a manifestation of demon possession and/or spiritual attack and/or a lack of faith and/or karma. This myth stops sufferers from engaging with professional help.

Myth No 5: A person with mental ill health is violently dangerous and should be avoided. If we buy into this, we will not own up to our difficulties with our mental health for fear of being considered violent and dangerous and be put away formally or ostracised by friends and family. There is simply no evidence to support this misconception. If anything, a person with mental ill health is vulnerable to being attacked/bullied by others.

Mental ill-health is no respecter of persons. It is a very real phenomenon that does not depend on a person’s faith or lack thereof and does not cause a person to be violent or dangerous. The first step towards recovery is acceptance… and then, reaching out for assistance.

With the right care and support, people who have experienced mental ill-health do go on to live full productive lives, realising their potential, contributing to society and coping again with normal everyday stresses.

This article was originally published as part of welldoing.org's partnership with Health Unlocked

Further reading

Depression: the symptoms and when to ask for help

Anxiety: when does normal emotion become a problem?

Which type of therapy is right for me?

Does psychotherapy really help?