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4 Mental Health Myths Debunked: Understanding the American Mental Health Crisis

There’s not much we Americans agree on these days. Not politics, not healthcare, not even which sportball team is objectively the best. 

But if there’s one thing that seems to unite us all, besides our adoration of Dolly Parton, it’s mental health issues

The American mental health crisis has been at the forefront of wellness conversations for a few years now — starting even before the pandemic that knocked us all flat — with things reaching a fever pitch now that 1 in 5 Americans report having mental health issues. 

Why is this happening? Is it karma for the 2019 Cats remake? Are we so driven to be the top dogs of the wider world that it doesn’t matter if we’re #1 in depression, so long as we’re #1? 

Or could it be something as simple as this: We don’t really understand mental health

Dr. Neal, holistic pharmacist of 20+ years, talked about the messy, maddening topic that is mental health with practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Lawrence Dresdale. What resulted from that conversation may shock your TV-programmed sensibilities, but it might also take a weight off your mind.  

So, if you have half a mind to get to the root of your mind-boggling thoughts and roller coaster emotions, read on to learn what a truly holistic approach to mental health looks like. 

In This Article:

Understanding Mental Illness and Mental Health Issues

Access to worldwide information has granted a lot of knowledge to modern humans. We know the average size of a baby moose and the weather on the other side of the globe; we know the minute intricacies of Reese Witherspoon’s breakfast. 

We know that many of us are suffering from uncomfortable or else debilitating mental health issues and that these issues are not always tied to external stressors or pain. Even the well-off, wealthy wonders of our society are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health crises at what seems like an unprecedented rate. 

Emotional or mental health difficulties, despite what your boomer uncle may say, didn’t come out of the clear blue nowhere. It’s not a sign of the weakness of younger generations, and people of times past did struggle with depression. 

(We just called it stress back then — or hysteria, for the women — and shipped those folks off to a psychiatric center.) 

These days, there’s a giant community-care-shaped hole in our treatment plans for depression and anxiety. Without a container for and proper education on these difficulties, they spill out onto the only place where people can really share experiences: the internet. 

But bear in mind, not everything you read on the internet is true! So let’s address three of the most common misunderstandings surrounding modern health right here, right now. 

1. Mental Health Issues Affect Everyone

Mental health, like many nuanced things in our contemporary world, is not a black-and-white issue. While many people believe it’s an either-or situation (as in you either have a mental illness or you don’t), the spectrum of mental health experiences is just that.

A spectrum.

Sure, you might identify as a person with no mental health difficulties whatsoever, but we’re willing to bet good money that you have, at some point or another, experienced stress or anxiety. Why are we so confident in this wager? Because these uncomfortable emotions are an inherent mechanism of the clump of cells we call the brain.

Your brain, like Dolly Parton’s, Dr. Neal’s, and Dr. Dresdale’s, evolved to keep you alive. And survival, while important, is not the same thing as happiness.

Sometimes survival, according to that clump of cells, requires anticipating impending doom to feel some sense of preparedness, à la anxiety. Or self-isolating from the social group, which can be seen in some instances of depression.

Mental health struggles are kind in that they don’t discriminate. We all have brains, which means we can experience the full spectrum of emotions, even the unpleasant ones.

2. You Are Not Your Thoughts

If you, like all of us, have experienced some level of depression, anxiety, mania, trauma, or other mental health difficulties, then you might fall prey to another common misconception.

That is, the belief that your thoughts, because they come from your brain, are true. Or worse, that they’re you.

The aforementioned clump of cells that we call the brain gets a lot of attention because, as Dr. Dresdale so eloquently explains in this podcast episode, it translates our experiences into words. These words, or thoughts, seem very important because our brains think they’re very important.

So important, in fact, that we treat them as facts even when we know, logically, that they have no basis in reality. Thoughts like, “I’m a terrible person,” or “I’m the worst at X,” are good examples of this.

Having these thoughts does not mean you’re actually a terrible person, nor does it mean you have a bad brain or are mentally ill. It means you’re human. And sometimes the voice that emanates from your special clump of brain cells is not only unkind but just plain wrong.

3. It’s Not Your Fault

But where do these false truths we call thoughts come from, and why are they so rude sometimes? 

The American mental health crisis has risen as an inevitable response to what is the perfect breeding ground for depression and anxiety — our modern culture. There, we said it! We have created, in our baseball-loving country, an incubation state for cultivating seeds of stress into a full-bloom flourish. 


By making every aspect of our day-to-day lives antithetical to mental and physical well-being. We eat nutritionally bankrupt food from the drive-thru on our way to work hours that benefit only the top of the food chain. We bury the stress of social injustice and economic collapse under a mound of self-soothing behaviors like substance use and doom scrolling. 

Then, we leave it to ferment during our sleepless nights, only to shoo it away once more with dehydrating beverages to survive and to celebrate our long days sitting stationary in front of a screen. 

Pioneering and benefitting from this kind of culture are corporations that, in order to meet quarterly profit goals, require you to live this way regardless of the consequences. 

And then there are the other corporations who, in response to the consequences of an unhealthy culture, line their pockets with your hard-earned cash by selling cure-alls. While some supplements and such can, indeed, support optimal health, in this case, it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. 

4. The Mind and Body Work Together

Last, but certainly not least, is this doozy of a myth that has so thoroughly invaded our society it has become synonymous with American culture. 

The mind-body dichotomy. 

Here in the West, we believe that what happens in the body has no bearing on mental health. Despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that says exactly the contrary, we’re firm in our conviction that the brain is vacuum-sealed off from the rest of our organs and cells. 

That’s why the word holistic in the realm of mental health is often equated with hippie-dippie alternative medicine and anti-science rhetoric. What a holistic approach to mental well-being actually means, believe it or not, is that we look at the whole person

It means rejecting the antiquated belief that the brain and the body are disconnected, and, instead, seeing each person as a collection of interrelated organs that work together — brains, guts, and all. 

The false mind-body dichotomy is a pretty convenient belief to peddle if you’re one of the corporations profiting off the aforementioned processed food and productivity-centered culture! 

So let us be, if not the first or last then the sassiest to say: It’s not all in your head. Your mental and physical health are inextricably connected. No ifs, ands, or buts. 

Mental health issues can and do arise from physical health complications like nutritional deficiencies, chronic inflammation, poor sleep quality, endotoxins from our environment, or lack of exercise

And, because all parts contribute to the health of the whole, we can see improvements in mental well-being and quality of life by working with the things within our control. Like our diet, sleep, exercise, stress management, and environment

Looking at the Whole Picture of Mental Health

Whether we rocked your worlds with these debunked myths or just confirmed a sneaking suspicion you already had about the reality of mental health, there’s something else we want you to know. 

You’re not alone. 

Our team of holistic health experts is available to discuss your journey to wellness for free via our Counterside Consults — anytime, any day. (Except for the days team members take off to better their mental health, of course.) 

Because we don’t want to just talk the talk of empowering individuals with science-based mental health education. We want to walk the walk of slow but sustainable, whole-being healing with you, too. 

So click around to learn more about things like the gut-brain connection or meditation and mindfulness, and join our newsletter list to be the first to read our upcoming topic on wellness practices for mental health.


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