Myth Vs. Fact: Common Mental Health Misconceptions

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Can you tell the difference between a mental health myth and fact? Learn the truth about nine of the most common mental health misconceptions.

Myth #1: You are either mentally healthy or mentally ill

Fact: Because this is one of the most common mental health misconceptions, it is especially important to recognize that health, both physical and mental, exists on a continuum or spectrum and can change over the course of a person’s life. Someone who is generally mentally healthy may experience behavior changes, unhealthy relationships and emotional challenges from time to time. Conversely, an individual diagnosed with a mental illness can achieve remission and live a happy, healthy and purposeful life.

Myth #2: If you try harder, your symptoms will go away

Fact: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if people treated physical illness the same way many people treat mental illness? Imagine if you were diagnosed with diabetes, threw out your back, or had an asthma attack and the response to your malady was “You just need to change your frame of mind, then you’ll feel better.” Like physical injuries or illnesses, mental health conditions are real, diagnosable and treatable. Although self-care methods can help manage your mental illness, mental disorders cannot be wished away with meditation or be positive thinking alone.

Myth #3: Mental health disorders are uncommon

Fact: Mental illness is much more common than many people realize. In fact, one in five American adults will experience a mental health issue, one in 10 young people will experience a period of major depression, and one in 25 American live with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

Myth #4: Everyone with a mental illness needs medication to manage symptoms

Fact: No two patients are the same. Some people experiencing mental illness may need medication to help manage their symptoms, but others may not. Some patients respond well to medication, while other patients find therapy or other treatments very helpful or even crucial for recovery. With the growing number of mental health treatment options available, the vast majority of people with mental health conditions get better and many recover completely. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.

Myth #5: Psychiatric medications are bad

Fact: Many people have the misconception that psychiatric medicine is harmful. Many also believe that they are simply “happy pills” or “a way out” to avoid dealing with their problems. But a mental illness is still an illness. Just like any other illness, sometimes medication is helpful or necessary.

Myth #6: People with a mental illness are violent, dangerous and commit crimes

Fact: This one of the more common mental health misconceptions that is often fueled by the media. They are quick to judge and label the suspects of violent crimes as “mentally disturbed” or “mentally ill.” Just as anyone else can become violent or unpredictable, it is true that the same can happen to people with certain mental illnesses, but they are in the minority. The vast majority of people living with a mental illness are not violent or dangerous. In fact, people with severe mental illnesses are over 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than the general population. You probably know someone with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it, because many people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members of our communities.

Myth #7: Mental health problems are signs of weakness

Fact: Believing that a mental health disorder is a sign of weakness or poor character is entirely false . Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak and many people need treatment to get better. Many factors contribute to mental health problems, including biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry, life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse and family history of mental health problems. Just like having a broken leg is not a sign of weakness, a person struggling with depression can be mentally strong. In fact, managing a mental health condition takes a great deal of strength.

Myth #8: People with mental health conditions cannot work/are not suitable for important, responsible positions

Fact: Some may think that people with a mental health condition cannot hold down a job or cannot be a useful member of the workforce. People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Many people with mental health conditions excel in their jobs, raise families, and make it through the day with relative ease. 

Myth #9: A person with a mental illness will never be normal

Fact: A mental health diagnosis is not a “life sentence.” With the help of treatments, whether it’s therapy or medication, many people with mental health conditions can live happy, purposeful lives. While some mental health conditions are chronic, there are many treatment options available that work and can help people achieve long-lasting remission. Other mental health disorders can be short-term by nature and go away with time. 

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