May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Let’s start off with some important myth-busting.
Myth: Suffering from mental illness is uncommon.
Mental illness is probably more common than you think. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than one in five U.S. adults lives with a mental illness. Chances are you know or are somehow connected to someone suffering from a mental illness and may not even know.
Myth: Mental illnesses are not “true” medical conditions
There is plenty of research and empirical evidence that suggest that many, if not most, behavioral health issues involve chemical imbalances in the brain Much like medical conditions, there are often underlying biological causes and/or a genetic predisposition that account for illness. Importantly, chronic stressors including poverty, racism, abuse, and trauma significantly increase vulnerability for mental disorders.￼
Myth: People suffering from mental illness are more likely to commit a crime or engage in violent behavior. People suffering from mental illness are no more likely to commit violence than anyone else. In fact, studies show that people with mental health conditions are much more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than those in the general population.
Myth: Therapy isn’t necessary for people on medication
Therapy and other forms of self-care are usually an important part of a person’s treatment. All current best practice models indicate that use of pharmacological methods along with clinical/supportive interventions is the most successful approach in helping individuals on their paths to recovery
Myth: There is one best answer or treatment for mental illnesses.
Everyone’s situation is different, so treatment methods should be discussed and individualized with a qualified professional. There is no cure-all.
Myth: You can will away your mental illness with positive thought
Though having a positive outlook and belief in one’s recovery is important, behavioral health conditions cannot be “willed away.” People sometimes have the idea that issues like anxiety or depression are all in someone’s head and can be “shaken off,” but the reality is that recovery requires the help of evidence-based interventions, self-care, and social/community support.
Myth: Mental illness is a personal weakness
People do not choose to live with behavioral health issues, and there are a variety of factors involved their development. Stigma and shame are still very much a part of diagnosis of mental disorders and seeking help. Treat struggling people with dignity, and become an advocate for awareness in your community.
Myth: Keeping a job or having a social life is too stressful for individuals with mental illnesses. Those with mental illnesses are no different than your average employee. They are just as productive. And having a job and sense of community is actually beneficial to those living with a mental health issue. It provides structure and a sense of personal purpose.
Myth: Mental health professionals (psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, marriage and family counselors, etc.) make a ton of money off of people suffering from these disorders, and want to keep them in treatment as long as possible. Mental health care is often the lowest paying, longest work day among the healthcare professions. The majority of behavioral healthcare and related professionals work in this area because they want to, not because of the pay. For every hour that they spend with a client, there are at least two hours of paperwork, documentation, communication with other professionals, and follow up.