Myths about Mental Health

A myth is an idea or belief that many people believe to be true when it is in fact, false. A believed myth can cause a lot of harm to individuals and their relationships with others. If we want to reduce the impact of mental illnesses on our communities, we need to learn the facts and start with our own assumptions and behaviours.

Here are 7 common myths about mental illness.

Myth #1: Mental illnesses aren’t real illnesses.
Mental illnesses are not the regular ups and downs of life. Mental illnesses create distress, don’t go away on their own, and are real health problems with effective treatments. When someone breaks their arm, we wouldn’t expect them to just “get over it.” Nor would we blame them if they needed a cast, sling, or other help in their daily life while they recovered. The same applies for a mental illness.

Myth #2: Mental illnesses will never affect me.
There is a chance that all of us will be affected by mental illnesses. Researchers estimate that as many as one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. You may not experience a mental illness yourself, but it’s very likely that a family member, friend, or co-worker will experience challenges.

Myth #3: Mental illnesses are just an excuse for poor behaviour.
It’s true that some people who experience mental illnesses may act in ways that are unexpected or seem strange to others. We need to remember that the illness, not the person, is behind these behaviours. No one chooses to experience a mental illness. It’s also true that people with a history of a mental illness are like anyone else: they may make poor choices or do something unexpected for reasons unrelated to symptoms of their illness.

Myth #4: Kids can’t have a mental illness like depression.
Even children can experience mental illnesses. In fact, many mental illnesses first appear when a person is young. Mental illnesses may look different in children than in adults, but they are a real concern. Mental illnesses can impact the way young people learn and build skills, which can lead to challenges in the future.

Myth #5: People with mental illnesses are violent and dangerous.
Researchers agree that mental illnesses are not a good predictor of violence. In fact, if we look at mental illnesses on their own, people who experience a mental illness are no more violent than people without a mental illness. It’s also important to note that people who experience mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than to be violent.

Myth #6: People who experience mental illnesses are weak and can’t handle stress.
Stress impacts well-being, but this is true for everyone. People who experience mental illnesses may actually be better at managing stress than people who haven’t experienced mental illnesses. Many people who experience mental illnesses learn skills like stress management and problem-solving so they can take care of stress before it affects their well-being. Taking care of yourself and asking for help when you need it are signs of strength, not weakness.

Myth #7: People don’t recover from mental illnesses.
People can and do recover from mental illnesses. Today, there are many different kinds of treatments, services, and supports that can help. No one should expect to feel unwell forever. The fact is, people who experience mental illnesses can and do lead productive, engaged lives if someone continues to experience many challenges, it may be a sign that different approaches or supports are needed.

(Author: Lindsey Thomson. Post originally created for www.myblueprint.ca online blog)

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