Mental health includes our emotional, social and cognitive well-being. The stigma around mental illness is further fuelled by the many misconceptions about mental health that are popularly held to be true. Debunking these myths is the first step towards reducing the stigma and discrimination and facilitating better access to mental health care.

Fact: A lot of people face mental health problems at some point and seek therapy to help them cope better with it. Consulting a psychologist does not in any way mean that you have lost your mind or are crazy. A psychologist simply assists you in dealing with life concerns and empowers you to cope, to help you feel better and lead a happier, more positive life.

Fact: Mental illnesses are debilitating – they are as real and as difficult to deal with as physical illnesses. They are not a part of the regular ups and downs of life that will go away on their own or become better over time. People may experience a change in their behavior when dealing with such problems. That does not mean that they are faking it or doing it to grab attention. Nor are mental illnesses an excuse for laziness and poor behavior. Mental illnesses are real health problems that require effective treatments by professionals.

Fact: Even very young children may experience or show early warning signs of mental health concerns. Early interventions can help a child before the problems become more severe and interfere with the child’s growth and development.

Fact: Mental illnesses are not a choice; they can affect anyone. Surveys estimate that one in every six Indian has experienced a mental health concern at some point in their life. Even though you may not be directly experiencing it, it is quite likely that your family member, relative, friend, or colleague may experience a mental health concern.

Fact: Mental illnesses are caused by a combination of various environmental and biological factors and past experiences of the individual – they are not an outcome of personal weaknesses. Mental illness is not the fault of the person experiencing it. Experiencing a mental health problem or seeing a psychologist does not mean that you are weak. It is a part of life and can happen to anyone, just like physical illnesses.

Fact: The causes of violent behavior are complicated; it seldom stems from only a mental illness. Most of the people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. In fact, they are much more likely to be victims of violence or abuse.

Fact: Stressful situations affect all people, regardless of whether they have mental health problems or not. While mental health concerns certainly have an impact on your professional or academic life, many people dealing with such concerns can also be active, productive members of the society along with having a fulfilling life and a successful career. This is evidenced by the fact that many celebrities and other well-known, successful people too have experienced mental illnesses.

Fact: People can and do recover from many mental health problems. Professional help and the right treatment plan, along with support from friends and family, will help you on the road to recovery.

Fact: While positive thinking and spirituality can certainly be a powerful tool in recovery, it needs to be accompanied by an effective medical and psychotherapeutic treatment plan.

Fact: Psychologists are mental health professionals who are trained in assessment and diagnosis of mental illnesses and in providing therapy and interventions. They are highly skilled in making behavioral observations and inferences and use scientific techniques to help you change your behavior or cope with stressors. They are definitely not mind readers or magicians.

Fact: There is no one right, common treatment that works for all. While medications can work for some, others respond better to a combination of medications and therapy, and some even prefer only psychotherapy. It is important to determine which treatment approach suits you better based on your needs and problems and the expert opinion of your mental health professional.

Fact: The duration and course of therapy varies from case to case. Usually therapy sessions range from a few weeks to a few months, depending upon the nature of the problem, frequency of sessions, and treatment plan. While some mental health problems can be dealt with fewer therapy sessions, some others may take longer.

Fact: Some mental, emotional and behavioral disorders can be prevented by addressing the known risk factors that can potentially lead to its development. Such preventive efforts focus on the early warning signs and risk factors as well as promoting mental and emotional well-being.

Fact: Friends and family can make a big difference by reaching out, supporting by showing empathy, and urging them to seek help. You can encourage them to talk about their feelings, keep in touch with them, and try to motivate (but not force) them to be active, eat well, relax, and engage in enjoyable activities. TLC (tender loving care), understanding and promoting mental health, refusing to use stigmatizing labels like “crazy” or “psycho” will start a healthier conversation towards creating and sustaining a positive and accepting community.