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Cape Town - Mental illnesses is a topic not understood by many. Mental illnesses are heavily stigmatised and often words such as 'depressed', 'bipolar' and 'schizophrenic' are thrown around without understanding what these illnesses are.

We have listed a few misconceptions about mental illnesses.

'Hulle is mal.'

No. They are not crazy. There are so many different mental illnesses and to paint it all with same 'crazy' brush is somewhat ignorant. 

Snap out of it! Stop being so sad. 

Repeat after me. Depression has nothing to do with 'feeling sad'. It's not merely sadness and is not something that you can snap out of. 
"In some cases depression is not only caused by outside factors such as losing a loved one or going through a traumatic episode. It can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. And like every other illness of the body, it might need the right medication," said a volunteer working at Valkenberg Hospital, who has preferred to not be identified. 

Just get help. 

There is help, but sometimes, the journey to full recovery takes longer. "If you lucky enough to have access to medical aid, your road to recovery can be quicker than if you are poor or homeless." 

It won't happen to me

It's more common than people think. There is this ongoing notion that if you are beautiful, rich or successful you are immune to mental illness. "It can affect anyone at any time."

Mentally ill people can't work properly

Seeing as this year, the SA Federation for Mental Health shines the spotlight on mental health in the workplace, it is important to realise that people with mental disorders can do work. 

"Employers should become more patient and understanding of what employees are going through. There should be constant wellness programmes to help cope with the stresses."

There is nothing I can do/Not my problem

If a loved one is suffering from a mental illness, there is help. Additionally, the most you can do for that person is be that person's support, to respect them and to treat them like the human beings they are. 

"Mentally ill people are not dangerous as movies portray. With the right support, and treatment, they can live a life with purpose"

"At the end of the day, they just want to know they are able to get back into society and be part of it. And not just live on the fringe of communities."

Learning new skills is important for said purpose. "E ven when they are sitting in psychiatric institution, they know that any skills that they learn will help them on the road to recovery."