Myths and Misconceptions
Stigma about mental illnesses continues to prevent many people from seeking the help they need. According to a recent survey, among people who know someone living with a mental illness, 62% said that person was (or is) afraid to seek treatment.1 Some see mental illnesses as something to be ashamed of and think a “normal” life is inconceivable. The survey found that people living with mental illnesses are made to feel isolated (78%), ashamed about asking for help (76%), and are actually prevented from getting the help they need (69%).2 Living with a brain illness does not define you or a loved one, and does not control who you are and want to be. Below are common myths and misconceptions of mental illnesses:3
Myth 1: Mental health conditions are uncommon.
1 in 5 Americans experiences mental illnesses in their lifetime; one in 25 experiences it in a year. Mental illnesses can affect anyone despite their age, race, income, and religion.
Myth 2: Different races are more prone to mental illnesses.
There is no single group that is more susceptible to mental illness than another. While some may have cultural influences that effect how their symptoms are interpreted or treated, all races and ethnicities are affected by mental illnesses.
Myth 3: Mental illnesses are caused by personal weakness.
Living with a mental illness is not a result of personal weakness. It is caused by environmental and biological factors; a person living with a mental health condition is not at fault for developing it. Having experienced a trauma can make one more susceptible, along with irregular biochemical processes and circuits in that brain that play a role in your mental health.
Myth 4: If you feel better, you are cured.
It’s common to think once a proper treatment plan is in place and your symptoms subside that you are no longer living with a mental illness. The truth is, feeling better does not necessarily mean you’re “cured.” The feeling of relief may be a result of a treatment plan, and to sustain mental health, you may need to continue treatment for long-term progress. If you’re considering discontinuing your treatment plan or stopping medication, discuss it with your health care professional first.
Myth 5: People with mental illnesses are “damaged.”
Living with a mental illness does not make anyone less of a person or broken. Because someone may have different life experiences than another does not make them “damaged.”
Myth 6: You don’t need therapy. Just take a pill.
There is not one right path to recovery. Medication can help, but often a combination of therapy and medication may lead to the best outcome.
Myth 7: Medications do more harm than good.
Some researchers believe that the symptoms of mental illnesses come from chemical imbalances in the brain. It’s also believed that mental illnesses can be caused by faulty communication among neurons. Neurons throughout the brain are constantly communicating with one another through chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. Everything we do relies on neurons communicating with one another. Mental illnesses develop when neurons in the brain stop communicating or when there is a problem with neurons communicating.
In many instances, medication works on these imbalances to help reduce symptoms or relieve them. New research is testing investigational medicines for people who have not been helped sufficiently by existing therapies.
If you or a loved one is having a mental health crisis, know that there is help. Go to the nearest hospital, emergency room, call 1-800-273-TALK or text HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to reach someone live. You can also call 911 for immediate assistance. If you are living outside of the U.S., see a full list of country-specific suicide hotlines here.
1Janssen Data on File. 2Janssen Data on File. 3“Mental Health Myths and Facts.” MentalHealth.gov. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 29 Aug. 2017. Web Jan. 2018. http://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/mental-health-myths-facts.