These Misconceptions Make It Hard to End the Stigma
In recent years, there has been a concerted effort around the world to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. Most recently, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott opened up about his own struggles with his mental health. He discussed how the pandemic, paired with his brother’s death, impacted him.
As more individuals come forward, we are slowly moving towards a world that is not afraid to speak up about mental illness. However, as that conversation becomes more and more open, there are plenty of things people don’t understand about mental illness and mental health.
Fortunately, not everyone has personal experience with mental illness. These individuals cannot always grasp the gravity of the situation if they have not experienced mental illness themselves or had someone close to them go through it. That does not mean that they cannot be supportive or helpful. However, it does often lead to the spread of misconceptions.
These misconceptions about mental illness can be detrimental to destigmatizing the discussion. They give people the wrong idea. It is crucial to identify these misconceptions and clear the air. Doing so will allow the conversation to progress smoothly.
If you or someone you love currently deals with mental illness, contact the team at Lifeworks Counseling Center today. We will help you get back to living well again.
Misconception: Mental Illness is Rare.
While we do not wish as many people had to live with mental illness as they do, it is not a rare anomaly. Unfortunately, mental illness is quite common and affects millions of people every year.
Here are some mental health statistics to give you a better idea of how common mental illness is:
- One in five American adults experiences mental illness every year, equaling 43.8 million people every year.
- Nearly one in 25 adults live with a severe mental illness.
- Over half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by the age of 14, while 75% start by age 24.
- On average, there is an 11-year delay between the onset of symptoms and treatment.
- Only 43% of adults receive treatment for their mental illness, while 64% of those with a severe mental illness get treatment.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
As you can see, mental illness is not a random occurrence. It affects millions of people every year, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.
Misconception: Being Mentally Ill Means You’re Crazy.
Being mentally ill does not make you crazy. It just means that you are plagued by a disease, with challenging symptoms. The world should view mental illness as they would any other chronic health condition, such as diabetes or arthritis.
It is a disease that impacts an individual’s life in multiple ways. Fortunately, just like other chronic health conditions, there are treatments that can help. Being mentally ill does not mean you are crazy. It means you are a human who is susceptible to sickness, just like anyone else.
Misconception: You are Either Mentally Healthy or Mentally Ill.
Someone can be in the best shape of their life and is what people consider healthy, and they can still have minor health issues (such as achy joints or high cholesterol). Just like a physically fit person can experience minor health problems, so too can a mentally healthy person experience an emotional or mental issue.
Mental health can rise and fall. Even if you feel like you are doing well, you might not be 100% mentally healthy. In fact, according to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), only 17% of U.S. adults are considered to be in a state of optimal mental health.
Misconception: Those with Mental Illness are Violent.
More often than not, when the media discusses mental illness, it is in a negative light. These headlines portray violent criminals, such as those that commit public shootings or domestic assault, as mentally ill. Although they depict these violent criminals as mentally ill, most people with mental health issues are far from violent.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, only 7.5% of crimes committed can be directly linked to symptoms of mental illness. Furthermore, individuals with severe mental illness are more at risk of falling victim to violence in their community, suffering violence at a rate more than 11 times higher than the general population.
Misconception: Mental Illness is a Sign of Weakness.
This misconception could not be further from the truth. As we stated earlier, people should view and treat mental illness like any other health condition. Mental strength is not the same as mental health. Someone living with diabetes might still be physically strong. Just because you have a mental illness does not mean you are mentally weak.
Misconception: Children Cannot Experience Mental Illness.
While we wish this misconception were accurate, it isn’t. As we mentioned earlier, nearly half of all lifetime mental illnesses start by the age of 14. That means young children’s mental health slowly gets to that point. Unfortunately, there are biological, psychological, and social factors that lead to this development.
At least one in five children between the ages of 9-17 has a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes some level of impairment. One out of ten has a disorder that causes significant impairment. Unfortunately, one out of 100,000 children ages 10-14 die by suicide every year. Because so many still believe that children cannot experience mental illness, they do not receive the treatment they need.
Misconception: Mental Illness Does Not Go Away.
While some mental health conditions (such as schizophrenia) do not go away, most can be treated. There are plenty of treatments available to those with mental health problems that have proven effective over the years.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, between 70-90% of people see a significant reduction in their symptoms with a combination of prescription medication and therapy. They also experience an improved quality of life. While these treatments do not always mean an illness is gone, complete recovery is possible with proper treatment and healthy lifestyle changes (sleeping better, exercising, eating healthy, etc.).
As the push to destigmatize mental illness ramps up, we need to continue to dispel misconceptions surrounding mental illness. The more people understand about mental health, the better. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, give Lifeworks Counseling Center a call today.