sad older woman
Anxiety (Panic Disorders, Phobias)
Bipolar disorder
Mental & Emotional Health

Myths and Facts About Mental Illness

Although most of us are perfectly fine with discussing physical health, mental health is another matter. The truth about mental health is often lost in a fog of fear, anger and ignorance. Here, the experts at , a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, separate mental-health facts from myths:

Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Fact: According to the experts, such problems are very common. The experts estimate that in 2011, about one in five American adults had a mental health issues. One in ten young people had suffered an episode of major depression. Five percent of the population – one in 20 Americans – lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 38,000 victims per year. According to, that’s more than twice the number of lives lost to homicide. It accounts for the loss of more than 38,000 American lives each year, more than double the number of lives lost to homicide.

Myth: Children don’t experience mental health problems.

Fact: Even very young children may show early warning signs, according to the experts. Half of all mental health disorders show first signs before a person turns 14 years old, and three quarters of mental health disorders begin before age 24.

However, the experts say, fewer than 20% of children and adolescents with diagnosable mental health problems receive the treatment they need. Early mental health support can help a child before problems get worse.

The problems can often be diagnosed by an appropriate health-care practitioner. As in adults, these issues can be a product of a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors.

Myth: People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.

Fact: According to, the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no likelier to be violent than anyone else. Only 3 to 5 percent of violent acts are committed by people living with a serious mental illness. In fact, the experts say, people with mental health issues are more than 10 times likelier to be the victim of a violence crime than those who aren’t mentally ill.

Myth: People with mental-health issues can’t take the stress of a job, even if they are managing their illness.

Fact: According to the experts, people with mental health problems are as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems, the experts say, report good attendance as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on the same or a higher level than other employees.

The experts emphasize that when employees with mental health problems receive effective treatment, that can result in lower total medical costs; increased productivity; a lower rate of absenteeism; and lower disability costs.

Myth: Personality weakness or character flaws cause mental health problems. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.

Fact: Mental health problems have nothing to do with being lazy or weak, the experts say, and many people need help to get better. The cause of mental health problems can be traced to a number of causes, including biological factors, such as genes, physical illness, injury, or brain chemistry; life  experiences, such as trauma or abuse; or a family history of mental health problems.

Myth: There is no hope for people with mental health problems. They will never get better.

Fact: Studies show that people with mental health problems get better, and many recover completely, the experts say. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities.

Myth: Therapy and self-help don’t do any good. Why shouldn’t you just take a pill?

Fact: Treatment for mental health problems vary from person to person and can include medication, therapy, or both

Myth: I can’t do anything for a person with a mental health problem.

Fact: Friends and loved ones can make a big difference, experts say. They can help someone get needed treatment. Some things you can do: reaching out and letting them know you are available to help, including assisting them in accessing mental-health service; learning and sharing facts about mental health, especially if you hear something that isn’t true; refusing to call people “crazy” or to define them by their condition.

Myth: It is impossible to prevent mental illnesses.

Fact: The experts say that prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders focuses on addressing known risk factors such as exposure to trauma that can affect the chances that children, youth, and young adults will develop mental health problems.

For more information on mental health issues, visit


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