There is a heavy stigma surrounding mental health in our society. Unfortunately, negative feelings and opinions toward people who have a mental health condition are common. Often, mental health is made out to be less important than physical health, or, because it is “invisible,” it is simply deemed a myth in and of itself.
Here, we debunk 10 common misconceptions about mental health so that you can start a conversation with those around you on how to effectively talk about these conditions. Understanding mental illnesses and fostering mental health awareness are critical in improving the collective headspaces of our communities.
1. “People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.”
The vast majority of people with mental health conditions are “no more likely to be violent than anyone else.” In fact, “most people with mental illness are not violent, and only 3–5% of violent acts can be attributed to” people with a mental illness.
2. “People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.”
Mental health conditions are not a choice and are not caused by “personality weaknesses.” People living with a mental health condition cannot choose when they are symptomatic, much less the fact that they have the condition itself. The following factors contribute to mental health conditions:
- Biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry
- Life experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse
- Family history of mental health problems
3. “People with mental health conditions cannot get better.”
This myth is one of the easiest to disprove because we see people with mental health conditions improve every day. According to Mental Health America, many people with mental health conditions are able to recover and live productive lives. They can connect with others, excel at their jobs, and achieve their goals. All they need to recover is a support system and a treatment plan that fits them.
4. “People with mental health needs can’t handle a job.”
People with mental health conditions can be just as productive and successful as their coworkers. In the workplace, people with mental health conditions are consistently reported as having a strong work ethic, motivation, punctuality, and more.
5. “Psychiatric medications are bad.”
Some people may have the perception that psychiatric medication is harmful. In fact, just like with any other condition such as heart disease or asthma, medication is incredibly beneficial, if not necessary for many with mental health conditions.
Spreading the idea that taking medication is something to be ashamed of, or that it should be seen as “giving up,” is incredibly harmful. This is especially poignant when very few would say the same of those taking medication to recover from a physical condition.
(Interested in learning more? Here is our article on 5 misconceptions about antidepressants)
6. “People with a mental health condition are ‘crazy.’”
Incorrect. Having a mental health condition means you have a condition just like any other condition–mental or physical–and that you have challenging symptoms. Having an illness, mental or physical, is just a part of being human.
7. “Mental health conditions are not common.”
This is simply false. About 1 in every 5 people will experience a mental health issue in a given year. One way to make those struggling feel safer about discussing their challenges is by making statistics like this known. If you have a mental health condition: you are not alone.
8. “Children who have mental health conditions are ‘just being kids.’”
About 1 in 5 teenagers have or will develop a mental illness. In 50% of adults who have a mental health issue, the first signs showed up before the age of 14. Between the ages of 3 and 17, approximately 4.4 million children have diagnosed anxiety, and 1.9 million have diagnosed depression. Statistically, this myth is untrue.
9. “People with mental health conditions are doing it for attention.”
No one would choose to have a mental health condition, just as no one would choose to have cancer or heart failure. People who struggle with their mental health are people living with challenges just like anyone else.
10. “People who appear to have their life ‘put together’ can’t have a mental health condition.”
Mental health can be “invisible” and might not readily show itself to the outside world. This doesn’t mean, however, that a person who seems “fine” or to be “doing really well” is not struggling with their mental health on the inside. Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on relationship status, annual income, or property ownership.
Mental health stigma often does more harm than good by shaming people for their mental health issues and discouraging them from seeking treatment. One way to break the stigma is by dispelling mental health myths and understanding the actual facts. Start spreading compassion and understanding, and the world will be a better place.