Debunking 10 Myths About Mental Health
It wasn’t that long ago that mental health issues were viewed as a punishment from the gods or even demonic possession. Negative attitudes about mental illness persisted well into the 1800’s. During the mid 1800’s, mental health became recognized as a legitimate illness and treatment became a focus of care. Still, negative attitudes, myths, and stigma surrounded those with mental illness. Today, we know so much more about mental health disorders and treatment is more readily available. Despite all that progress, certain myths continue to persist. While some of these myths sound downright silly, others seem plausible, at least on the surface, that they impede people from seeking care. We are going to share the top 10 myths about mental health and give you the facts.
Myth #1: People who have mental health issues are dangerous.
Truth: Researchers have looked at this myth extensively. Only about 3-5%1 of people with mental illness are involved in violent acts. Looking at actual crime statistics, numerous studies2 have found that the vast majority of people with mental health issues are not more likely to be violent. In fact, people with mental health issues are more likely to be the victims of violent crime as opposed to the perpetrators. Homicides committed by people with mental illness are decreasing, while rates of suicide are increasing. People with mental illness are much more likely to be a risk to themselves as opposed to others.
Myth #2: People cause their own mental health problems. It’s their own fault.
Truth: People are not to blame for their mental health problems. Someone doesn’t wake up one day and think, “Hey, I’ll be mentally ill today.” Mental health issues can emerge for a number of reasons, and people are not always able to prevent that. While people do need to take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with their mental health disorder, blaming them for it is not appropriate.
Myth #3: People who have mental health problems are just weak-minded. They could do better if they wanted to.
Truth: Oh, if it were that simple. The fact is, someone’s mental health issues have nothing to do with being lazy or weak. Many powerful factors contribute and sometimes, people need help to heal. Mental health issues can be caused by things like:
- Genetics or a family history of mental health problems
- Brain chemistry
- Injury or illness
- Adverse life experiences, including trauma or a history of abuse
People with mental health problems can and do get better.
Myth #4: Treatment doesn’t work.
Fact: This is a popular myth with about 41%3 of people believing treatment for mental health issues doesn’t work and 59%3 believing that substance abuse treatment is ineffective. The fact is, treatment can be highly effective. Most research4 supports that the combination of psychotherapy with medication as needed is highly effective in treating mental health issues. Evidence-based3 interventions for substance abuse treatment are highly effective as well.
Myth #5: Therapy takes forever and I need help now.
Fact: Therapy has come a long way from the days of Freud and his form of psychoanalysis. Treatment approaches today are much more solution-focused. That means, while your early experiences are important, the focus of therapy is identifying the issues and developing the skills you need to cope with the problems you’re experiencing. Depending on what your needs are, therapy can last a few weeks, a few months or longer.
Myth #6: If I talk about what is bothering me, the therapist will think I’m crazy! They might put me in the hospital.
Fact: First, you’re not crazy. Problems are a part of life and sometimes, we need help sorting through them. Hospitalization is reserved for people who are unable to keep themselves safe or may be a danger to others. Even then, except in rare cases, people are stabilized and moved to a lower level of care to continue their treatment. (see our blog on the behavioral health continuum for more about levels of care)
Myth #7: My PCP can treat me. I don’t need a therapist.
Fact: While your PCP can treat you, you may be missing out on important clinical interventions that only a behavioral health specialist can provide. Your PCP is probably not a behavioral health clinician and may not be well-versed in the latest in diagnostic and treatment best practices. He or she may prescribe some medication, but that alone is the least effective of the treatments for mental health issues. Best practices5 suggest that psychotherapy, coupled with medication when indicated, provide the best treatment outcomes.
Myth #8: If I get help, everybody will know.
Fact: What is discussed between you and your therapist stays between you and your therapist. Therapists are bound by confidentiality. That means that what you discuss with your treatment provider is private. With exceptions for suspected abuse or neglect, your therapist cannot reveal or discuss your care with anyone without your expressed consent. That includes a spouse, a boss, a friend…anyone.
Myth #9: Children don’t get mental problems. It’s just part of growing up.
Fact: Children are indeed susceptible to mental health problems. Symptoms of many mental health issues can often be observed in kids as young as three. What’s even more relevant is that half6 of all mental health disorders show first signs by the mid-teens, and three quarters of mental health disorders start by the mid-20s.
Myth #10: Substance abuse is not a real mental illness.
Fact:Substance abuse, whether it’s alcohol or drugs, is indeed considered a legitimate mental health issue requiring therapeutic intervention. The dynamics of addiction reflect a pattern of behavior that is indicative of emotional impairment. Substance use also significantly impacts cognitive and neurological functioning. It is quite common for someone to be present with both a substance abuse issue and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression.
They say the truth will set you free. Once you know the truth about mental health issues, you are free to confidently seek the help you or your loved one needs.
When you’re ready, All Points North Lodge is here with the programs and expertise you need to face your mental health issues with confidence. Our team of expert clinicians are ready to help you take the next step towards healing and recovery. We offer programs designed to treat addictions and mental health disorders. Nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, APN Lodge offers a luxury rehab experience that is surrounded by the perfect environment for healing, personal growth, and recovery. Using evidence-based treatment approaches, our team of clinicians has the expertise to guide you through the process from referral through program completion.
To learn about all that the APN Lodge experience offers, reach out to one of our Contact Center team members at 866-525-9107. Let us help you find your way forward.
1. Mental Health.Gov. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts
2. The Lancet. (2013). Truth versus myth on mental illness, suicide, and crime. The Lancet, 382(9901), 1309. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(13)62125-x
3. Barry, C. L., McGinty, E. E., Pescosolido, B. A., & Goldman, H. H. (2014). Stigma, discrimination, treatment effectiveness, and policy: public views about drug addiction and mental illness. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 65(10), 1269–1272. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201400140
4. American Psychological Association. (2012). Research Shows Psychotherapy Is Effective But Underutilized. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/08/psychotherapy-effective#:~:text=The%20average%20effects%20of%20psychotherapy,functioning%3B%20and%20decreases%20psychiatric%20hospitalization
5. American Psychological Association. (2017, July). How do I choose between medication and therapy? Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/medication-or-therapy
6. Kessler, R. C., Amminger, G. P., Aguilar-Gaxiola, S., Alonso, J., Lee, S., & Ustün, T. B. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: a review of recent literature. Current opinion in psychiatry, 20(4), 359–364. https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e32816ebc8c