In one form or another 1 in 5 people in the United States will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life. That in itself puts to bed the first myth, that mental health conditions are uncommon. Given the current population of 318,900,000; this means that there could be some 63.7 million people suffering from mental health conditions at this very moment, and that is only inside the United States. If we were to include the entire world into that number the totals would be staggering. Unfortunately, that is not the only common misconception about mental health; let’s take a look at a few more common myths concerning the subject.
People with Mental Health Issues are Violent or Unstable
This could not be farther from the truth, true there are those certain cases of extreme mental health conditions where the person suffering could be unstable or even dangerous to themselves or others, but that is not the norm. The fact is that the majority of people with mental health conditions are no more likely to turn violent than anyone else. In fact, only 3%-5% of all violent acts can be attributed to someone living with a serious mental illness. Conversely, people with mental illnesses are actually far more likely to be victimized by violent behavior.
Mental Health Conditions are Purely Genetic or Biological
Like any other medical condition, mental health issues can originate from many sources, they are not caused purely by “bad genes” or “chemical imbalances”. In the same sense, one cannot say that mental health conditions are caused only by outside stimuli. The fact is that mental health conditions are often an unfortunate mix of contributing factors. These of conditions can be affected by genetic disorders or chemical imbalances in the brain, this is true. What is also true though (and often overlooked) is that mental illnesses are almost just as often the result of some form of trauma or other outside stimuli. Neither cause makes the mental condition anymore or less severe, though often the methodology behind treatment will vary based on the perceived cause of the condition.
The Person Suffering is Also the Cause
Often times you hear that the reason behind a mental illness is no one’s fault but the person suffering. Now while it is true that a person needs to be held accountable for their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with the condition, the fact that they have the condition is no more their fault than it is the fault of a deaf person that they cannot hear. They did not choose to have the condition, what is more likely is that they are incredibly uncomfortable with how the condition makes them behave, and they would do anything in their power to control it better.
You can Handle Your Own Mental Health Issues (and if I cannot I am weak)
This is a difficult one because there is some truth to the first part of the statement. It is true that some people are very capable of managing minor mental health conditions on their own. Thousands of people who suffer from mental illness suffer in silence and their peers are none the wiser. They use traditional coping mechanisms and lead a perfectly normal life. This, however, brings about the question “am I weak because I sought treatment?” the answer is no, it is that simple. Everyone handles things differently, likely the person asking this question has been struggling with the condition for some time and things are just becoming overwhelming. At this point it is imperative that the person seeks treatment, this does not mean the person is weak-willed, weak-minded, or any other form of weak. What it means is that the person has tried to manage the condition with more conventional methods and they are simply not enough. Everyone needs help sometimes and being too afraid to admit that is what makes a person weak.