Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mental Illness Myths

Mental illness is often misunderstood.  Fear related to misunderstanding perpetuates the stigma associated with it. 

1. Mental Illness affects others, it can not affect me.

Mental illness is more common than most people think.  1 in 4 Americans have a diagnosable mental disorder in their lifetime according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Many people do not get the treatment they need because of the fear and stigma associated with seeking treatment.

2. Mental Illness means weakness or lack of intelligence.

People often do not seek help because they think that means they are weak.  Mental health diagnosis is like any other injury or illness that someone would want to seek medical attention.  Mental illness is no more a weakness than Diabetes or Leukemia. It also has nothing to do with intelligence or how smart someone is.

3. Mental Disorders are forever and if I go for help I will be labeled "crazy".

Research has shown that people with mental health problems do get better and many recover completely.  Family and friends would not label or look down on you if you were diagnosed with heart disease or cancer - mental health diagnosis is no different.  Appropriate treatments can help people live a full and productive life.

4. Therapy is a waste of time.

There are many misconceptions about therapy and often people think that they can just take a pill to feel better.  While there are many pharmacological treatments, there is no one size fits all.  Treatment for mental illness is often a combination of self-care, therapy, medication and support.  Often people think therapy is a long process of digging deep into childhood experiences to find an "ahah" moment. There are many other treatment methods such as CBT Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, ACT Acceptance & Commitment Therapy and Solutions Focused which focus on helpful cognitions, strengths, mindfulness and collaboration.

5. People with Mental Illness are violent.

There is no data to support that people living with mental illness are more likely to commit crimes or hurt others than the average population.  The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent.

6. Children don't experience mental illness, it is a result of bad parenting.

Acting out for children can be a sign of an emotional or mental disorder.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health 50% of lifetime cases begin before the age of 14 years old. Mental illness can happen at any age and is not caused by someone doing something, rather it is a combination of internal and external factors such as biological, psychological, social and possibly genetic.  Early support and prevention can help promote emotional well-being.

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