Dispelling myths about mental illness

Engaging in conversation about mental illness with the average person proves that lack of information and stigmas continue to flourish. Negative stereotypes abound and are communicated from person to person. Anyone can be stricken with mental illness at any time. Heredity, body chemistry and life events all contribute to mental illness and not one person is immune from becoming mentally ill.

The following are a few myth-busters regarding common mental illness stereotypes:

It’s contagious

A paper published in the journal Memory and Cognition in 2014 revealed that people believe mental illness is a communicable disease. The feelings and emotions that contribute to mental illness are rooted in the brain. There is no virus or bacteria involved and it is impossible to “catch” depression, schizophrenia or any other mental disorder in the same way that it is impossible to “catch” a headache.

Mental illness is linked to violence

Unfortunately, following high profile crimes, the media often report that the perpetrator suffered from a mental illness, which reinforces the belief that all people with mental illness have violent tendencies. According to the mental health survey “Violence and mental illness: an overview” featured in the 2003 issue of World Psychiatry, people with mental health issues are often more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator.

It’s all in the mentally ill person’s head

Most people are unaware that mental illness can trigger physical symptoms. Those with mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, could suffer from body pain, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, headaches and digestive disturbances. Mental illness can’t be banished by merely “snapping out of it” or calming down.

It’s uncommon

According to the World Health Organization, one in four people the world will experience a mental illness at some point in his or her life.

A person can’t recover from mental illness

The National Alliance on Mental illness notes: “Innovations in the range of evidence based medications, therapy and psychosocial services such as psychiatric rehabilitation, housing, employment and peer supports have made wellness and recovery a reality for people living with mental health conditions.” Competent therapy, medication and support from friends and family members all contribute to helping a person back to a healthy and productive life.

The first step in recovery is to seek help. If you would like further information, please call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline at any time