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mental health mondays :: mythbusters edition

as i promised on friday, i am dusting off my beret and mustache and venturing into the land of myths regarding mental health and mental disorders. as with many things, the more something comes to the public's attention, the more bizarre stories start to circulate about it. so this week's post will try to get to the bottom of the top mental myths. [of course, this is not an exhaustive list of myths, but, you know, you have to start somewhere.]


1. mental disorders are a by-product of the modern world and other than serious cases, were unknown earlier in history :: actually, while the names were different, most ancient cultures understood mental and mood disorders beyond those like severe forms of schizophrenia. in fact, they were viewed in the same terms as other diseases an usually attributed to the same forces. disordered thought patterns and concentration appear to have been understood in ancient egypt. empires india and china were aware of the presence and dangers of conditions like depression and mania and, of course, the reason that much of the terminology related to mental health has greek roots is because the ancient greeks recognised disordered thought as a health problem.

some of the most detailed work on psychology in pre-modern times, however, comes from the muslim world. scientists in persia and arabia identified categories of mental disorders, most of which are still recognised today. they established asylums where mental patients could be cared for [and apparently, cared for is what they were] as early as the beginning of the eighth century. there is even some evidence that they were abel to identified neurological conditions like parkinson's disease.

historically, it is the idea that mental illnesses are unlike other forms of illness that is a product of the modern world. since, in judeo-christian societies, moods and thoughts were generally believed to be the realm of the spirit, and therefore disordered thought was perceived as indicative of an individual having problems in their relationship with god.

myth status :: busted

2. mental illness is largely a first-world phenomenon :: this is much trickier to answer than people would have you believe. first of all, there is the question of access to treatment in the first place. rates of mental illness are, unsurprisingly, higher in countries where people have easy access to health care and, equally unsurprisingly, self-reported incidents of mental illness were highest in the united states. however, in a two-year study of fourteen countries from around the world, at least half reported mental disorders affecting more than 10% of the population. in countries where there is a higher perceived stigma associated with mental disorders, self-reported illnesses are lower, a correlation that makes all self-reported data a little suspect. basically, people are more likely to say that they have a mental illness the more socially acceptable it is to have a mental illness. so by the time we succeed in fully removing the stigma associated with such disorders, by that logic, we'll all be crazy.

prevalence of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression generally seem greater in the united states [and, to a lesser extent, europe] because these are the countries in which most studies take place. information on the developing world is lacking, which is different than saying that mental illness does not occur. there are also cultural factors at work in even identifying mental disorders. for instance, while rates of schizophrenia overall are more common in the western world, incidents of particular forms like catatonia or hebrephrenia were up to ten times more common in the developing world. add to that the fact that, even in the western world, mental illness disproportionately affects peripatetic populations like migrants and the homeless- who are notoriously difficult to study- and you have a lot more questions than answers.

myth status :: plausible, requiring further research

3. people with severe mental disorders are prone to violence :: it seems like every time a story comes up in the news about someone with a mental disorder committing a violent crime, everyone sort of shrugs and acts as if that's what you have to expect from crazy people. actually, despite what you read or hear, people with mental disorders are no more likely to commit violent crimes than people who are "normal". actually, people with mental disorders are statistically more dangerous to themselves than anyone else. there is no study conducted that would indicate that any group in a specific set of circumstances would behave differently than any other group placed in the same circumstances. bottom line: there's no difference between being normal and being crazy at the end of the line.  

myth status :: busted

there are plenty more myths about mental health to be busted. do you know any? feel free to contact me with some suggestions. until then... here comes the c4!!!! 

[p.s. :: many thanks to dom for the "mythbusters" image]


as long as you're here, why not read more?

mental health mondays :: the war at home

what's worse than being sent off to war when you're barely old enough to order a drink in a bar? making it home only to get poisoned by the government that sent you there. 
although it's certainly not a secret, i don't find that the opiate/ opioid crisis happening in america gets nearly the attention it deserves. at least, what attention it gets just seems to repeat "thousands of people are dying, it's terrible", without ever explaining how things got to the state they are now. there's mention of heroin becoming cheaper, of shameful over-prescriptions and dumping of pills in poorly regulated states/ counties, etc. but too much of the media coverage seems content to say that there's a problem and leave it at that.

one of the things that might be hindering debate is that a very big problem likely has a lot of different causes, which means that it's important to break it down into smaller problems to deal with it. and one of those problems conne…


i keep seeing this ad for tictac candies:

am i the only one who finds the suicide bomber clown at the end a little unnerving? all the nice natural things like the bunny and the [extinct] woolly mammoth and the fruit get devoured by a trying-to-appear-nonthreatening-but-obviously-psychotic clown who then blows himself up. congratulations, tictac, i think this ad has landed you on about a dozen watch lists.

oh and by the way, showing me that your product will somehow cause my stomach to explode in a rainbow of wtf makes me believe that doing consuming tictacs would be a worse dietary decision than the time i ate two raw eggs and a half a bottle of hot sauce on a dare.

digging for [audio] treasure

my computer tells me that i need to cut down the amount of music stored on my overstuffed hard drive. my ears tell me that that would deprive me of some wonderful listening experiences. 
halifax, nova scotia was not the easiest place to find out about music with limited appeal. it was a very music-centred city, to be sure, but, being smaller, things like noise, industrial, and experimental music struggled to gain a foothold, even as the alternative rock scene exploded in the early nineties. i was lucky enough to have some friends who were happy to share music that they loved, but i knew that there were lots of things that i was missing out on.

with the dawn of the internet, and various types of music sharing, i found myself able to discover bands that i'd heard about, but never managed to track down, from the days of underground cassette culture. and, to my surprise and elation, many of them do very much live up to what i'd imagined from reading descriptions of them in catalo…