10 Myths About Mental Illness

Myths About Mental Illness Are Common

With one in five American adults having experienced a mental health issue, a lack of understanding of mental illness can have profound consequences for millions of people in our nation.

Misconceptions, or myths, about mental illness are widespread and contribute to an age-old stigma, leading many to withdraw into shame and avoid seeking the help they need. 

The first step to eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness is to understand what mental illness is and then to understand, confront and shatter the myths that our society has created.

So what is mental illness? What mental illness is not is any one condition. It’s not just depression. It’s not just schizophrenia. It’s not just anxiety disorders. It’s not just eating disorders. It’s not just addictive behaviors. Mental illness is all of those things—a wide range of mental health conditions and disorders that affect mood, thinking and behavior. 

Dispelling the Myths

Myth No. 1: People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough
People with mental health can get better, and many recover completely, but most realize their need for intervention at some level. Nothing cuts deeper to someone with depression than when his or her serious condition is trivialized by another who doesn’t understand it. Truth is, depression and other mental illnesses have the ability to kill, so why wouldn’t we take them seriously?

Myth No.2: People with mental illness are violent and unpredictable
 In reality, most people who have mental health problems are no more violent than anyone else. The vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness, according to an article in MentalHealth.gov. In fact, most violence typically results not from any mental illness but from more commonly shared factors with the general public, such as feeling threatened or excessive use of alcohol or drugs.

Myth No. 3: Children and teens don’t experience mental health problems
 One in five children and adolescents has a diagnosable mental illness; even very young children may show early warning signs of mental health issues. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, half of all mental health disorders first appear before the age of 14, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin prior to age 24.

With fewer than 20 percent of young people with mental health problems receiving the treatment they need, early identification is imperative. Early intervention into programs like Clay Behavioral Health Center’s children’s mental health servicescan help a child before problems interfere with other developmental needs.

Myth No. 4: Mental illnesses cannot affect me
 Sorry, but no one is immune. In fact, mental health problems are very common. According to the MentalHealth.gov Website, approximately:

  • One in five American adults experiences a mental health issue
  • One in 10 young people experiences a period of major depression, and
  • One in 20 Americans lives with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression
  • Affecting almost every family in America, mental illnesses do not discriminate; they can affect anyone.

Myth No. 5: Mental illnesses are brought on by a weakness of character
Mental illness can strike anyone, at any time, whether you’re “weak” or strong—it knows no bounds. And it has nothing to do with being weak. Some of the strongest people you’ll meet are those who’ve coped with depression or mental illness all their lives. While social factors like the death of a loved one or a job loss can contribute to the development of various disorders, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, mental illnesses are more a culmination of biological, psychological and social factors. Never is a diagnosis of mental illness an accusation of weakness.

Myth No. 6: People with mental illnesses cannot hold down a job
A person with a mental illness can do the same jobs as his well-bodied counterparts. Realistically, all jobs are stressful to some extent. However, studies show that people with mental illness who find competitive jobs enjoy a higher quality of life. Besides allowing people to support themselves, work is also a powerful form of therapy. 

Myth No. 7: Depression is just an extreme form of sadness or griefFact: With ordinary sadness or grief, time is almost always a healer. Depression, on the other hand, is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and hopelessness that lasts for weeks to months on end and has no apparent cause. In depression, time alone doesn’t help—nor does willpower. 

Myth NO. 8: Depression just affects old people and women.
Fact: Depression and all other mental disorders do not discriminate based upon age or gender. True, women generally suffer with depression more than men, but it is not a women-only disease. And regarding age, teenagers and young adults struggle with depression just as much as seniors do, which means that depression shows no favoritism to the aged. Depression is not a normal part of the aging process. 

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Myth NO. 9: I’m predestined to depression; after all, my parents had it. And isn’t it inherited?
 The good news, according to PsychCentral.com, is that having a relative with depression only marginally increases your risk for inheriting the disease at about 10 to 15%. So relax, but call the professionals at CCBHC for a private consultation should you have any concerns.

Myth No. 10: African Americans are less likely to have mental health disorders than other ethnic minorities
African American and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about one-half the rate of whites in the past year, according to the National Healthcare Disparities Report. African Americans only account for about 3 percent of the national population with serious mental illness; but that number may be inaccurate, considering recent research presented by BlackDoctor.org that the clear indicators of mental health in this population include access to care, low probability in seeking help, misdiagnosis, and delivery of care—all major factors affecting how minority mental health is tracked and understood.

Mental Illness Can Be Treated

Don’t let the myths about mental health illnesses keep you from seeking smart solutions and enjoying a long, healthy and happy life. There’s always hope in a prognosis of mental illness. The key is seeking treatment as soon as possible. Contact us at CCBHC, and let us help you get this new season off to a healthy start.

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