5 Myths About Mental Illness


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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness every year, meaning there’s a good chance you or someone you know is affected by mental health problems at any given time. Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of a person’s age, gender, geography, income, social status, race or ethnicity, religion or spirituality, sexual orientation, background, or another aspect of their cultural identity. Yet, despite the prevalence of mental illness, there are still many misconceptions surrounding the topic of mental health. 

Myths About Mental Illness

Myth #1: Mental illness is caused by a single event.

Contrary to what many believe, mental illness isn’t the result of one event. Mental health is complex and a product of several causes referred to as risk factors. The risk of developing a mental illness increases the more risk factors a person has. Examples of risk factors and stressful events include:

  • Genetics
  • Brain chemistry
  • Environment
  • Childhood trauma
  • Negative thoughts
  • Unhealthy habits
  • Substance abuse

Myth #2: Mental illness lasts forever.

Mental illness is most often not permanent. Many people can and do get better; some people even recover completely. Additionally, the symptoms associated with mental illness differ for everyone. Some people experience their symptoms in waves, meaning their symptoms are worse on some days, while other times, they may not even notice symptoms at all. Additionally, some people need medication to improve their symptoms, while others may benefit from therapy. Some people need a combination of both. 

While not all mental health problems are curable, most are treatable. It’s helpful to know that there are more treatments available now than ever before, and breakthroughs are happening all of the time.

Myth 3: Having a mental illness is equivalent to being crazy.

Having a mental illness does not make a person crazy. A mental illness is an illness. Mental health disorders fall on a spectrum, and each person’s symptoms can range from moderate to severe at any given time.

Most people with mental health disorders live active and productive lives. Many also do well managing their job and family responsibilities.  

Myth 4: People with mental illness are dangerous.

Mental illness does not cause a person to be violent or dangerous. The incidence of violence in those with mental illness is not much higher than in those without mental illness. According to an article published in World Psychology, only five percent of violent acts can be attributed to individuals with serious mental illness

In reality, people with severe mental illness are over ten times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than the general population. 

Myth 5: There is nothing you can do for a person with mental illness. 

Friends and family can make a significant difference for a person with mental illness. Oftentimes, just letting a person know that you care is enough to make a positive impact on their road to recovery. Friends and family can also be helpful by encouraging their loved ones with mental illness to get the treatment and services they need. 

Myths Further Stigmatize Mental Health

The myths associated with mental illness only contribute to the stigma toward people experiencing mental health challenges. By educating ourselves about mental illness, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves and help break the stigma surrounding many mental health disorders, creating a world where people feel more comfortable talking about issues related to mental health. 

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