Mental illness is widely misunderstood by the general public. People who suffer from mental disorders can find that many myths surround their condition. These misconceptions contribute to stigma, making it more difficult to seek treatment and manage disorders. We’d like to dispel some of these fictions.
1. People Can Use Willpower to Recover
While there is no definite cure-all for mental illness, it definitely can’t be treated by willpower alone. People can’t just “snap out of it.” If only managing a condition were that easy! Conversely, treatment such as medication, psychotherapy, and Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) actually works. Scientists are frequently discovering new advances in treatment, and with them, sufferers of mental illness can manage their disorders and lead healthy, productive lives.
2. Mentally Ill People Can’t Work
Nope, this is bogus as well. People with mental disorders can and do contribute to the workplace and home. Most of the time, the mentally ill are excellent at “covering” for their illnesses, which basically means that they can successfully pretend that all is well. They can be so good at covering, friends and family don’t even recognize that the disordered are mentally ill.
3. It’s Just Bad Parenting
No, no, no. The causes of mental illness are varied, including genetics, physiological changes, and environmental stressors. Neglect and unusual stress in the home tend to exacerbate underlying conditions which have biological causes. It’s not the parent’s fault that a child develops mental illnesses. Which leads us into our next point…
4. Children Can’t Be Mentally Ill
Children make up a great percentage of the mentally ill. More than half of all mental illnesses show up before a child turns fourteen, and three-quarters of them appear before the age of twenty-four. Even very young children can demonstrate symptoms of mental disorders.
5. Mentally Ill People Are Violent
Dead wrong. Suffers of mental illness make up a meager 3-5% of the incidences of violent acts in society. Hollywood has a terrible habit of stereotyping the mentally ill as violent, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Jim Carrey’s character in Me, Myself, and Irene. In fact, disordered people are ten times more likely to experience violence than the general population.
6. Mental Illnesses are Uncommon
This is absolutely not the case. One in five adult Americans endure mental illnesses each year. Roughly six percent of the population suffers from a debilitating disorder. You’re not alone if you have a mental health problem.
7. Most Mentally Ill People are White
Actually, most mentally ill people are minorities. African Americans are the most at-risk group, vulnerable to mental disorders such as depression due to increased stress from economic disadvantages.
8. People Can Recover With Drugs Alone
Medications and ECT are only part of the equation. The rest is talk therapy, which most people prefer to use rather than drugs, and peer support groups. These latter strategies try to lessen the effect of environmental stressors, which can trigger or exacerbate underlying conditions.
These myths are damaging to the mentally ill. By educating yourself about mental disorders, and spreading the truth about them, you can help combat dangerous misconceptions which stigmatize sufferers of mental health issues.