5 Mental Illness Misconceptions

As I mentioned last week, May is Mental Awareness Month. This month, I’ll be focusing on mental illness and related issues to raise awareness to this important cause. Today, I’ll be discussing the five most common misconceptions about mental illness and treatment.

Before we begin, let’s first define mental illness. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), mental illness is defined as “a health condition that involves changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior.” In addition, it’s important to note that mental illnesses impede normal social or emotional behaviors. Although we all experience highs and lows, people with mental illness often experience stress and difficult emotions on an enhanced level that greatly affects their day-to-day life.

Now that we’ve covered what mental illness is, we can jump into common misconceptions.

  1. Mental illness isn’t that common. Sadly, it’s more common than you think. Did you know that nearly one in five Americans experience some form of mental illness? These illnesses range from mood disorders like depression to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

  2. Treatment is a waste of time. This misconception is shared by more people than I’d like to admit. Yet, it’s the most dangerous misconception of the five listed. Just like physical illness, mental illness should be taken seriously and treated accordingly by medical professionals.

  3. Mental illness is a sign of weakness. As I mentioned in last week’s article, society has placed a HUGE stigma on mental illness and therapeutic services. Unfortunately, this stigma has caused many people to view mental illness as a sign of weakness. This is simply not true. To put it in perspective I’ll reference Psychotherapist, Amy Morin, “Just as someone with diabetes could still be physically strong, someone with depression can still be mentally strong.” In other words, mental health issues do not determine a person’s emotional, or cognitive strength.

  4. People with mental illness are dangerous. Despite popular belief, the majority of people with mental illness are not violent. Again, this all comes back to the stigma against mental illness. The media does a good job of encouraging this negative stigma by blaming heinous crimes like mass shootings on mental illness instead of criminals with violent tendencies. According to the APA, “only 7.5% of crimes are directly related to mental illness”. Read that again. Less than 10% of crimes have been directly caused by symptoms of mental illness; indicating that mental illness does not cause violence.

  5. People with mental illness never get better. Once again, this is false. TREATMENT WORKS, PEOPLE! Individuals with mental illness recover all the time. With the right recovery plan, mental illness symptoms can be treated so that sufferers can get back to their daily lives.

If you are suffering from mental illness or want to schedule a therapy session, we’re here for you. The Grafton-Taylor County Health Department is now offering Behavioral Health services by appointment only. We are currently accepting new patients, so don’t hesitate to make your appointment today by calling the office during normal business hours (Monday-Friday; 8AM-4PM) at 304-265-1288. We look forward to your call.

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