Overcoming misconceptions about mental illness

By Muhammad Faiz

Do you remember back then, when there were weird people in the neighbourhood that people just assume they were crazy? They could have down syndrome or autism or personality disorder or just simply having a mental breakdown due to being bipolar, but other people will just assume they are crazy and no one would even argue about it because they just agree with it.

That is what usually happened back then when it comes to mental illness but it is saddening to know that it is still happening now.

Some of the people have no idea what mental illness is all about, as they do not fully grasp the situation behind the meaning of mental illness. They often conclude it simply as not real as it affects the mental state which is often not seen by the naked eye, but then again so does cancer.

Mental illness offers a wide spectrum but is often considered as one for people who do not know. It is deeply important for us to learn, to know more about mental illnesses as it is probably the most misunderstood and abused illness.

Here are some of the things people often misunderstand:

  1. Mental illness is not a real illness

Usually, when we know about any illnesses, we would want to know all of the details. What is it? How did it happen? Is it terminal? How to cure the illness? These sorts of questions will linger in everyone’s mind and they like to have answers. For other kinds of illnesses such as diabetes, tumours or even blood pressure, we can easily get information about them by going for a scan. There are symptoms for us to watch for. The question is either they will be recognised early or later in life.

Mental illness is related to the neurological function of a human being. However, it is different as any other neurological illnesses as there is no easy way of telling it. If it is a tumour, we can see it in the head scan. We can also see fluids in the brain or any an aneurysm. Besides that, mental illnesses are also influenced by behavioural functions.

In order to have biological evidence for any mental illness, extensive check-ups must be made. If someone has schizophrenia, usually he or she been linked to specific genes as specific brain abnormalities been linked to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and autism. As for someone dealing with depression, he or she will have one area in the brain who will be doing extra works, which is Brodmann area 25. Just because we cannot see it or understand it easily, does not mean it is not real. In fact, it is existing.

  1. Just get over it” stereotype

Just like any physiotherapy session after going through amputation, it will take a long rehabilitating period to be better, for them to adapt to a new situation and move forward. They will not just simply get over it. In order for them to be better, it takes a lot of efforts to do so. Going to a therapy session, to stick to their medication, have a normal, healthy daily routine while living life is hard work. It takes a lot of discipline and strength.

The history of oneself while growing to deal with mental illness is tough. Each of the triggers differs completely from another person and somehow they could also be the same. The triggers are the catalysts to determine how they should be treated and how we should help them. Essentially, it will take time. It does not only take a simple step, which is just to stop being sad. It may work for some but most of the time it is ineffective.

A person who advises one suffering from mental illness to ‘just to get over it’ does mean he or she does not understand how dangerous mental illness could be. This is why some people are afraid to speak up and get help because of their fear of being criticised.

  1. Mental illness is a small matter

Wrong. Mental illness is not a small matter. It never was. It never will be. The thing about mental illness is that by thinking it is a small matter, it allows people to keep it within themselves. They thought that it would easily be gone and would gradually fade in time rather than to face it up front. However, it is hard for them to battle their illness on their own. Sometimes they need help from their surroundings, by having steady support systems. If people in their surroundings also think mental illness is a small matter, they would be left on their own. Thus, it discourages them to open up.

Keeping mental illness in silence is dangerous. David Berkowitz, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and David Gonzalez, to name a few, are some of the people who are suffering from mental illness. What do they have in common? They are all serial killers. Usually, these serial killers will have either schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder. Besides that, they are also either not properly treated or did not receive any treatment at all for their illness.

Thus, it is deeply important for the society to treat mental illness as an important matter. By realising it, it helps the public and their surroundings to react positively to it. It opens a wide opportunity for people to heal and to be better. Therefore, it is also important for us to know how mental illness works and how we are able to help people who are suffering from it as mental illness is not something that we could just sweep under the rug. Thus, by learning, we will be aware and be informed of mental illness. Let us change the world by being more enlightened by this issue.

“What mental health needs are more sunlight, more candour, and more unashamed conversations about illnesses that affect not only individuals but their families as well.” -Glenn Close- ***


  1. http://behaviorismandmentalhealth.com/2017/01/10/the-biological-evidence-for-mental-illness/
  2. http://www.forensicscolleges.com/blog/resources/dangerous-minds-criminal-mental-illness

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