Mental Health Month: 7 Myths and Facts About Mental Illness

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Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May since 1949. Since this time, we have made great strides in our awareness and understanding of mental health. However, there are still many myths and misconceptions that persist, despite ongoing education and awareness.

Pura Vida Recovery is committed to helping people understand mental health and well-being and how it affects individuals, families and communities. Below are seven common myths about mental health and the facts behind them.

Myth #1: Mental illness is rare.

Fact: Actually, mental illness is quite common. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five adults in the U.S. experiences mental illness in a given year. Over one in five youth (ages 13-18) either currently, or at some point in their life, have had a debilitating mental illness.

Furthermore, about one in 25 adults in the U.S. lives with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression. With these statistics in mind, mental illnesses are some of the most common health conditions in the U.S.

Myth #2: Mental illness is a sign of weakness.

Fact: Mental illness is not a weakness, nor a choice. It is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and biological factors. While anyone can develop a mental health problem at any time, some people are more at risk than others.

It’s important for people to recognize that mental illness is not a sign of weakness or personal failure, because otherwise, they may be harder on themselves or others. Tough love doesn’t help someone with mental illness. They need professional support and treatment.

Without treatment, mental illness may continue to get worse and put the person at risk for substance use, self-harming behaviors and even suicide. Like other chronic conditions, mental illness is debilitating and isolating. Some days, people can’t even get out of bed. But it has nothing to do with being weak.

Myth #3: People with mental illness are violent.

Fact: People with mental illness are no more likely to be violent compared to the rest of the population. In fact, they are more likely to be victims of violence. This happens because of the stigma and discrimination towards people with mental illness.

Furthermore, people living with certain conditions like schizophrenia are more likely to harm themselves than to harm others. As long as the person is receiving effective treatment and not using drugs or alcohol, they are no more violent or dangerous than the rest of the population.

Myth #4: Mental illness is a lifelong sentence.

Fact: With proper treatment and support, people with mental illness can lead fulfilling and productive lives. Recovery is possible, and it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to improve the chances for a full recovery.

That being said, most mental illnesses are not curable. This means that if you are diagnosed with mental illness, you’ll need to take your medication, go to therapy, adopt healthy coping strategies and schedule regular appointments with your doctor.

The more effective your treatment is, and the better care you take of yourself, the easier it will be to manage your symptoms.

Myth #5: Only adults are impacted by mental illness.

Fact: Sadly, adults aren’t the only ones who are impacted by mental illness. Children are, too. Mental illness can affect anyone, of any age, even young children and elders. Early intervention and treatment can be particularly effective when addressing mental health problems in children and adolescents.

According to one study, 21.8 percent of U.S. children ages 3 to 17 have one or more emotional, mental and behavioral conditions. These numbers have been exacerbated due to the lingering effects of the pandemic. The most common mental health disorders in U.S. children are ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems and depression.

Fortunately, by identifying the symptoms of mental illness in children, parents or guardians can seek professional treatment early on. Children and adolescents respond well to psychotherapy, family counseling, family support and medications.

Myth #6: People with mental illness have a hard time working.

Fact: Mental illness does not have to be a barrier to employment. As long as a person is effectively treating their mental health disorder, they can hold down a full-time job just like anyone else. In fact, mental illness may be correlated with success in certain positions. For example, people with bipolar disorder are often creative and innovative.

Additionally, there are protections for people with mental illness in the workplace. Under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The ADA also prevents workers with mental illness from being discriminated against.

Myth #7: Mental illness responds better to a pill than therapy.

Fact: Research generally shows that psychotherapy is more effective than medications. Therefore, it’s worth a person’s time and effort to participate in therapy, especially if they don’t respond well to medication. That’s not to say that medication can’t be effective, because it can. But most people with mental illness do best with a combination of medication and therapy.

Fortunately, there are many different types of antidepressants and therapies, so people can find the combination that works for them. For the best outcomes, it’s important that the person is willing to stick with the treatment, as results do not happen overnight.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Santa Rosa CA

As you can see, there are many myths and misconceptions that persist in regards to mental illness. It’s important for people to know the truths about mental illness so that they can either support someone with the condition, or be open to getting help for themselves. The good news is that with effective treatment, people with mental illness are able to lead happy, fulfilling and productive lives.

If you or someone you care about is in need of mental health and substance use treatment, contact Pura Vida Recovery today. We offer comprehensive care for individuals with dual diagnosis, as well as sober living accommodations.