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Dispelling Myths on Mental Illness

This was adapted from a NAMI post by Sarah Powell Jul. 17, 2015

1. Myth: Mental health conditions are uncommon.
Fact: One in five Americans experiences Mental illness in their lifetime. One in twenty-five Americans experience a serious mental illness in any given year.

2. Myth: Mental illness is the result of bad parenting.
Fact: While environment can impact mental health, biology counts just as much. Mental health conditions are not simply a side effect of parenting, but a combination of influences.

3. Myth: People are “faking it” or doing it for attention.
Fact: People do not choose to have a mental illness, just as they would not choose to have a physical illness. Mental health conditions have been intensively studied and are real.

4. Myth: Mental illness is caused by personal weakness.
Fact: Just like any other major illness, mental illness is not the fault of the person who has it. It is caused by environmental and biological factors, not personal weakness.

5. Myth: Different races are more prone to mental illness.
Fact: All races and ethnicities are affected by the same rate of mental illness. There is no single group of people more likely than others to have a mental health condition.

6. Myth: You’re just sad, not depressed.
Fact: People often have the misconception that a person can just “cheer up” or “shake it off.” Depression is not just “the blues,” but a serious medical condition that affects the biological functioning of our bodies.

7. Myth: You don’t need therapy. Just take a pill.
Fact: Everyone has different treatment needs. While medication can help, it may not be the only thing a person needs to feel their best. Often a combination of therapy and medication provides the best outcomes.

8. Myth: People with mental illness can’t handle work or school.
Fact: Stressful situations can be difficult for all people. People with mental health conditions have jobs, go to school, and are active members of their communities.

9. Myth: People with mental health conditions are violent and dangerous.
Fact: Having a mental health condition does not make a person more likely to be violent or dangerous. The truth is, living with a mental health condition makes you four times more likely to be a victim of violence.

10. Myth: Psychiatric disorders are not real medical issues.
Fact: Just as with heart disease and diabetes, mental illnesses are medical illnesses. Research shows the causes are similar to other medical conditions.

11. Myth: You can never recover from a mental illness.
Fact: Mental health issues are not always lifelong disorders. Some disorders, such as depression and anxiety may only require a short period of active treatment. Innovations in medicine and therapy have made recovery a reality.

12. Myth: If you feel better, you are cured.
Fact: For some people, after getting proper treatment, many symptoms may go away, but this does not mean you’re “cured.” Treatment may need to continue after you feel better. Always talk to your health care provider first.

13. Myth: People with mental illness are different.
Fact: A mental illness does not make someone any less of a person. They have different experiences that not everyone has to face.

14. Myth: A person can treat themselves with positive thought and prayer.
Fact: Positive thought, religion, and spirituality can be a powerful tool in recovery, but it shouldn’t be the only form of treatment. The most effective treatment is planned with a licensed health professional.

15. Myth: You can’t help someone with mental illness.
Fact: Everyone can help those living with mental illness by speaking in a way that preserves their dignity. A person is not just their illness. Use person-first language; say “she has depression” not “she is depressed.” Do not use offensive slang such as “crazy,” “psycho,” “insane,” or “loony.”

16. Myth: People with mental illnesses should be kept in institutions.
Fact: Most people living with mental illness do not need long-term hospitalization. Like other diseases, there are times when a person with mental illness may need a short hospital stay, but seldom more than a week or two.

17: Myth: People with mental Illness cannot contribute to society.
Fact: People with mental illness enrich our lives. Among them are: Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Wolf, Lionel Aldridge, Eugene O’Neill, Beethoven, Gaetano Donizetti, Robert Schumann, Leo Tolstoy, Yaslov Nijinsky, John Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Vincent Van Gogh, Isaac Newton, Ernest Hemmingway, Sylvia Plath, Michelangelo, Winston Churchill, Vivien Leigh, Emperor Norton I, Jimmy Piersall, Patty Duke, Michael Faraday, Michael Phelps, Mariah Carey, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato, Brian Wilson, Howard Hughes, Lady Gaga, Brittney Spears, Sinead O’Connor, Richard Dreyfus, Carrey Fisher, Mel Gibson, Marilyn Monroe, Amy Weinhouse, Margot Kidder, Kurt Cobain, and the list goes on and on…

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