There is a heavy stigma surrounding mental health in our society. Oftentimes, mental health is made out to be less important than physical health, or, because it is “invisible,” it is simply deemed a myth in it of itself.
Today, we’re going to uncover 10 common misconceptions about mental health so that you can start a conversation with those around you on how to effectively and factually talk about mental health conditions. Understanding mental illnesses and fostering mental health awareness is 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. Many factors contribute to mental health conditions such as:
- • 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 recover every day. As the MentalHealth.gov association writes, “Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.”
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 so on.
5. “Psychiatric medications are bad.”
People tend to have the perception that medication is harmful. In fact, just like with any other condition such as heart disease or lung cancer, 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.
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. It means you are brave for coping with those challenging symptoms. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, having a mental health condition simply means you are human and are susceptible to sickness and illness, the same as any other person.
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 have 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; they are not faking anything.
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.
Help dispel common myths about mental health and start spreading compassion and understanding. You can help break the stigma! Comment below if you’ve heard any of these myths or other facts you think are important to share to dismantle common misconceptions.