It is an undisputed fact that individuals who experience mental health issues are often faced with discrimination that results from misconceptions of their illness. As a result, many people who would benefit from mental health services often don't seek treatment for fear that they will be viewed in a negative way. The World Health Organization agrees and says that in the 400 million people worldwide who are affected by mental illness, about twenty percent reach out for treatment.
Take a look at the common myths society holds about mental illness.
MYTH: Mental illness is not a true medical illness like heart disease and diabetes. People who have a mental illness are just "crazy."
FACT: Mental illness is a physiological illness, like heart disease and diabetes. Research shows there are genetic and biological causes for mental health illnesses, and that they can be treated effectively.
MYTH: Mental illness does not strike the "average person."
FACT: Anyone can potentially develop a mental illness, no matter sex, age, race, or economic status.
MYTH: If someone looks or acts odd it means that you need to be concerned about the potential for violence.
FACT: Contrary to popular beliefs, individuals with mental illness are no more prone to violence than the general public, and in fact, are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.
MYTH: Mental illness is a result from a personality weakness or character flaw, and people could just snap out of it if they tried hard enough.
FACT: Mental illness has nothing to do with being lazy or weak. It results from changes in brain chemistry or brain function. Medication and psychotherapy often help people to recover.
MYTH: Depression is a normal part of the aging process.
FACT: It is not normal for older adults to be depressed. Signs of depression in older people include loss of interest in activities, sleep disturbances and lethargy. Depression in the elderly is often undiagnosed, and it is important for seniors and their family members to recognize the problem and seek professional help.
MYTH: Depression and other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, do not affect children or adolescents. Any problems they have are just a part of growing up.
FACT: Children and adolescents can develop mental illnesses. In the United States, one in ten children and adolescents has a disorder severe enough to cause impairment.
MYTH: Most people with a mental illness are receiving treatment.
FACT: Only 1 in 5 persons affected with a mental illness seeks treatment.
MYTH: If you have a mental illness, you can will it away. Being treated for a psychiatric disorder means an individual has in some way "failed" or is weak.
FACT: A serious mental illness cannot be willed away. Ignoring the problem does not make it go away, either. It takes courage to seek professional help.
MYTH: Mentally ill people cannot lead productive lives.
FACT: People with a mental illness who receive treatment with therapy and/or medication can live full, enjoyable and productive lives. In fact many high profile people, including Abraham Lincoln, Patty Duke, Sheryl Crow, Hugh Laurie, John Leguizamo, Buzz Aldrin, Bruce Springsteen, George Stephanopolous, Michaelangelo, Halle Berry, Dick Clark, just to name a few, have been very successful in their chosen professions.