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10 Common Myths About Mental Illness

Approximately 30+ million American adults experience a mental illness in any given year, but less than half will receive treatment because of stigma and discrimination.

The high levels of stigma associated with mental illness make it difficult for individuals struggling to seek treatment. Often individuals fear being labeled as “crazy” and being ostracized if their friends, coworkers, boss, or neighbors become aware they have a mental illness.

This fear of being “found out” causes people to avoid seeking treatment, fail to take medications, isolate, and lose self-esteem.

By educating ourselves about mental health conditions, seeking to learn the facts instead of perpetuating the myths and supporting our friends and loved one who may be struggling with mental health issues, we can help make great strides toward reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.


MYTH: Mental health issues are very rare, and usually the result of an outlying issue, such as homelessness, childhood neglect, abuse, etc.

FACT: ANYBODY at any given time in their life can struggle with any number of mental health issues!

Examples include postpartum depression after having a baby; developing anxiety during the transition to college; struggling with post traumatic stress disorder following a crisis, etc. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in 5 Americans will have a diagnosable mental disorder at some time in their life.


MYTH: Mental health struggles are a sign of weakness.

FACT: Mental illness can affect ANYONE at ANYTIME and is NEVER a sign of weakness! 

Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of, covered up or apologized for. The only difference between a mental health condition and a medical condition is the stigma!


Mental Health Myths Friends LaughingMYTH: People who have a mental health condition look and act differently from everybody else.

FACT: It’s not uncommon for even serious mental health conditions to go entirely undetected by others, including close family and friends!

This can oftentimes be attributed to feelings of shame by the person who also struggles to hide their symptoms. A lot of the shame and secrecy stems from the stigma that unfortunately continues to surround many mental health conditions.


MYTH: Most mental health conditions are the result of the afflicted person’s unwillingness to just “snap out of it” or “get over it”.

FACT: Mental health conditions are no different than any other medical condition that needs treatment, such as cancer, diabetes or a broken bone. The only difference is the stigma! 

This stigma is what prevents people who are struggling with their mental health to seek guidance and help. Willpower can be a great force when it comes to motivating a person to seek help for their condition, but a person cannot simply will themselves out of a legitimate mental health condition, no matter how much they may want to!


MYTH: Most mental health disorders are lifelong afflictions and impossible to treat or manage.

FACT: With the right combination of professional assistance and good self-care habits, many mental health conditions can be successfully managed to the point where they no longer interfere with a person’s daily life. 

Even the more serious mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia and bipolar depression, can be adequately controlled with the proper balance of medication, therapy and self-care.


MYTH: People who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or other substances don’t have a “legitimate” mental health condition.

FACT: The misuse of alcohol and drugs physically changes the brain’s neurological structure and chemistry, leading to addiction. 

These changes can occur after only a few uses and can make withdrawing from the substance a very difficult ordeal, resulting in involuntary mental and physical side effects.


MYTH: Self-harm acts are just a cry for attention.

FACT: Many people who self-harm are ashamed of their behavior and go to great lengths to cover it up.

However, harming oneself is a very difficult behavior to stop, once started, because self-harm acts trigger a chemical reaction in the brain that actually helps regulate a person’s mood and even makes them feel good, despite the pain. After repeated self-harm acts, the resulting wounds, scars, and even the behavior itself will be very difficult to conceal from others, especially those who are close


MYTH: Talk of suicide and suicidal attempts are just a cry for attention.

FACT: Regardless of motive, any act of self-injury or attempt at suicide is a cry for help and should be taken seriously.

If someone you know is even just talking about suicide or “wanting to die”, TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY AND DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE. Do whatever you can to immediately remove any harmful items such as firearms, pills or other drugs/substances, razor blades, ropes, extension cords – anything they could use to seriously hurt or kill themselves. If you can, take them to a doctor, mental health professional, hospital emergency room or call 911.

You can also call Pine Rest at 800.678.5500 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255).


MYTH: People with mental health conditions are violent and dangerous.

FACT: Compared to the general population a person with a mental health condition is actually more likely to be the VICTIM of a violent crime. 

 

 


MYTH: Admitting you need help for a mental health issue outs you at risk of being seen as “crazy”, “unstable” or “unbalanced”, etc.

FACT: Admitting your struggles with your mental health and asking for help is more common than you think!

Just as you would not wait to have a broken arm tended to by a physician, you should never delay seeking treatment for a mental health problem. With early intervention and treatment, people can often experience a better overall outcome and move forward with their lives. Do not allow shame from misguided stigma prevent you from taking steps to look after YOU, even if that means seeking help from a mental health professional.

Society Needs Therapy

Fight the Stigma – Get the Facts About Mental Health!

When you make an effort to learn the facts about mental health, you have the power to promote mental health awareness within your circles of influence.

Check out our Resource section to educate yourself on any of the many different types of mental health conditions.


Additional Resources

Mental Health Stigma Persists, Keeps People from Seeking Treatment – By Jean Holthaus, LISW (Pine Rest)

5 Myths About PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – By Carolyn Waterstradt, MA, LMSW (Pine Rest)

Focusing on Men’s Mental Health – By Steve Runner, PsyD (Pine Rest)

SuperMom and Other Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression – By Gretchen Johnson, MSN, RN-BC

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

MentalHealth.gov

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